Dogged by a leaked sexually explicit photo and allegations of marital infidelity, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said Thursday he won’t seek re-election in 2018.
Barton, 68, made the announcement in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, saying he reversed his earlier decision to run after “enough people lost faith in me.”
“I’ve been listening to a lot of people the last week in Texas,” he told the newspaper. “There are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside ... so I am not going to run for re-election.”
Barton becomes the 23rd Republican who won’t seek re-election to the House next year, which includes 10 who said they plan to run for Senate seats or governorships. He’s also the fifth Republican among Texas’ 36-seat House delegation to decide to leave the chamber (one Democrat also is retiring).
“There are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside.”
Barton, first elected in 1984, faced heavy pressure from local GOP leaders not to run again in his suburban Dallas district. Tim O’Hare, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, on Tuesday released a public statement saying elected officials “should be held to a very high standard” and that Barton’s conduct “falls well below that standard.”
“Since Mr. Barton’s highly publicized issues have come to light,” O’Hare said, “I have talked to numerous Republican activists, leaders, voters and elected officials about this situation ― not a single one of them thinks he should run again. I personally hope he learns from this and tries to be a better father and man.”
The explicit photo ― a selfie that showed Barton’s penis, belly and face ― circulated on Twitter earlier this month. The lawmaker acknowledged sending the photo to a woman, with whom he said he had a consensual sexual relationship while he was still married to his second wife. The woman has said she did not post the photo, but did share it with other people.
The woman told The Washington Post she’d had two sexual encounters with Barton and that over a five-year-period he’s sent her sexually explicit texts.
Earlier week, a second woman disclosed to The Forth Worth Star-Telegram similar messages he sent her in 2012 and 2013, again while he was still married (Barton and his second wife have since divorced).
Barton, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, initially suggested that the photo made him a victim of “revenge porn” and that the Capitol police might investigate the matter.
But his conduct, set against a broader backdrop of sexual harassment tales that have rocked the political establishment, prominent media figures, and Hollywood alike, proved too turbulent a storm for him to weather politically.
Republicans who have signaled an interest in seeking the seat include Ron Wright, Barton’s former chief of staff. Republican Donald Trump carried the district over Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 12 percentage points in last year’s presidential election.
This article has been updated with the figures on House Republicans not seeking re-election next year.