Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, Texas' most-senior member of Congress, announced Thursday that he won't seek re-election after a nude photo of him circulated online and a Republican activist revealed messages of a sexual nature from him.
Barton, 68, initially apologized for the explicit photo that surfaced on Twitter just before Thanksgiving but refused to heed calls that he not seek re-election in 2018. Barton suggested he could be the victim of online exploitation.
About a week later, tea party organizer Kelly Canon came forward with Facebook Messenger exchanges from 2012 when Barton asked if she was wearing panties and made other sexual references. Canon said Barton hadn't apologized and that she hadn't asked him to, but also called on him to resign to avoid an electoral "feeding frenzy" among Democrats.
That prompted Barton to reverse course and announce that he was forgoing what would have been his 18th congressional campaign. Though his seat remains safely Republican, Barton had drawn a little-known challenger for Texas' March primary and could have drawn more.
Pressure had intensified for Barton to quit. Republican Party chairman in Barton's home county of Tarrant joined many conservatives in calling for Barton to step down after the nude photo. And following Canon's revelation, Republican members of the Texas' state Senate joined the call.
A group of 20 Republican women met with Barton this week to encourage him not to seek re-election.
On Thursday, he made the announcement that he was stepping aside and that it was time for a new voice to represent the 6th District -- but he made no mention of the embarrassing revelations.
"As a young Congressman, my slogan was “listening to you in Texas, working for you in Washington.” For me that was never just a saying, but a commitment - a way of life. Over the last 30 three years, I have held thousands of public meetings and visited with so many great people in Texas on issues important to them. In Washington, I have voted over 20,000 times on the House floor to hopefully make life a little better for the people in the 6th District.
"I am very proud of my public record and the many accomplishments of my office. It has been a tremendous honor to represent the 6th District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice.
"I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection in 2018. To the people of the 6th District, thank you for your support and friendship."
He was first elected to Congress in 1984. His retirement means seven of the state's 36 members of Congress aren't seeking re-election.
Barton, who is from Ennis, was the manager of the Republican team that was practicing for a charity congressional baseball game in June when a gunmen opened fire, gravely injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.