Over his 33-year tenure in the US Congress, Joe Barton has voted over 20,000 times as a representative of Texas Congressional District 6. Some of those have aided community programs such as Meals on Wheels while others are marred by controversy.
After the posting of a nude photo on social media and vulgar messages sent to a constituent, Barton announced on Thursday he would not be seeking re-election.
Barton was first elected to Congress for the Sixth District of Texas in 1984. This district is made up Tarrant, Ellis, Dallas, and Navarro Counties. In an email sent to the Daily Light on March 31, Barton announced his intentions to seek re-election for another term. He officially announced his re-election campaign on Nov. 3.
With the release of the photo, Barton issued a statement on Nov. 22 apologizing for his actions.
“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” he said. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”
The Associated Press then reported that tea party organizer Kelly Canon revealed Facebook Messenger exchanges from 2012 in which Barton asked if she was wearing panties and made other sexual references. Canon said her relationship with Barton never advanced beyond the messages.
With additional information coming to light about his conduct from messages sent Barton officially announced his plans to retire following the conclusion of his current term that ends on Jan. 3, 2019. He stated that it has been an honor to work for residents of the sixth district during his time in Washington.
"Over the last thirty-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,” Barton wrote. “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."
Before his announcement members of Barton’s party called on him to leave office.
“All elected officials should be role models. They should be held to a very high standard. Joe Barton’s conduct falls well below that standard. Since Mr. Barton’s highly-publicized issues have come to light, 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,” Tarrant County GOP Chairman Tim O’Hare said. “I personally hope he learns from this and tries to be a better father and man. But, I, along with thousands of other Tarrant County Republicans, call on Mr. Barton to not seek re-election and to retire from Congress by the end of this year. We are at a critical point in our nation’s history. It is my hope Mr. Barton will place his constituents, Tarrant County Republicans and our nation above his personal desires to make way for a candidate who better embodies our values and who will ensure Congressional District 6 remains in Republican hands.”
Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell feelings echoed many who feel that Barton’s actions make him unfit to hold office.
“As my team and I have previously stated, I have no plans to run for Congress, but given that Congressional District 6 and State Senate District 22 have many shared constituents in Navarro, Ellis, and Tarrant counties, I am compelled to speak with regard to recent events,” Birdwell stated. “The conduct of Congressman Joe Barton that has been confirmed - along with new revelations coming to light - is simply unbecoming of representing these counties, citizens, and families in the U.S. Congress. I urge him to place the interests of the district first and step aside. Should Congressman Barton seek re-election, I recommend that his constituents dutifully seek other candidates to support as their representative.”
• Barton was elected to office in 1984. During that time he has served on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He served as its chairman from 2004-2006. Barton currently serves as it’s vice chairman.
• Barton, along with Congressman John Lewis introduced House Bill 4942 in 2016. The bill is also known as the DELIVER Act, (Delivering Elderly Lunches and Increasing Volunteering Engagement and Reimbursements). Barton over the years has shown his support for the program locally by delivering meals to Meals-on-Wheels clients.
“In my hometown of Ennis, I have been a longtime advocate for Meals-on-Wheels. They provide an invaluable service in the delivery of meals, social contact, and safety checks to our most vulnerable citizens. I introduced this bill to benefit charitable volunteers and to let them know their work for our community is not unseen,” Barton stated at the time. “This short, concise bill amends the tax code to increase the tax deduction for volunteers who deliver meals to homebound individuals. At present, these volunteers are only able to deduct the charity mileage rate, as opposed to the standard mileage rate, on their annual tax returns. This year, the difference in deduction is a shocking 40 cents per mile. This bill helps people who use their own personal vehicle, on their own time to deliver meals to some of our most frail Americans.”
• During 2015 Barton voted for the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill would reauthorize the NIH and FDA, which would speed the discovery, development, and delivery of cures to patients.
“This bill will become law, and it will unite the medical research community. There are things in this bill that I have worked for 10 years that will help find cures sooner than later,” Barton stated at the time. “I’m tired of telling parents of sick children, ‘I can’t help you.’ This is something we can all be proud of. We can now tell parents and others battling disease there is hope. There is a future.”
• Barton sponsored the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The Wall Street Journal at the time that the act provided $14.5 billion in energy tax breaks including $2.6 billion for oil and gas industries.
• Along with working in Washington Barton founded the Barton Family Foundation in 2005. This foundation provides substantial financial support to select charitable organizations within the Texas Sixth Congressional District to enable them to achieve aggressive goals that would have been otherwise unattainable. Some of the projects supported by the foundation include Meals-on-Wheels, Boys and Girls Club of Navarro County, the Arlington Life Shelter, and most recently the Hope Clinic location in Ennis. Hope Clinic works to meet the medical needs of the uninsured and underinsured.
• During a session of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in June 2010, Barton apologized to then British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward. The meeting was following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.
“I’m ashamed of what took place in the White House yesterday. I think that it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown,” Barton stated on CSPAN at the time.
Barton’s apology was in reference to a $20 billion fund that was set up to pay for damages from the oil spill. In later reporting from CBS Barton retracted the apology, clarifying that BP should be responsible and the term ‘shakedown’ was used to refer to the actions from the White House.
• Recently, Barton was one of four Texas legislatures that voted against Harvey disaster aid. The National Weather Service stated that Harvey was a category four hurricane that had winds from 115 -130 mph. It made landfall on the Texas coast on Aug. 25.
“I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims, but I am against raising the public debt ceiling without a plan to reduce deficits in the short term and eliminate them in the long term,” Barton said in a statement after the vote to the Washington Post. “The money we vote to spend today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren.”
• Barton gave his support to the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The act included $7.2 billion in mandatory funding for more than 9,000 health center locations nationwide that serve more than 23 million patients. This legislation helped to preserve funding to treat more than 1,000 people in Ellis County.
The opponents that Barton would have faced in the upcoming election have made it clear that this type of conduct is not acceptable.
Democratic candidate John Duncan stated that Barton’s actions show a serious lapse in judgment and leadership that more should be expected from a person in his position. His announcement to
“I welcome Rep. Barton’s announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2018. His retirement will allow us to stay focused on discussions about job creation, economic growth, healthcare affordability, public education improvements, and other topics that affect the day-to-day lives of the hard-working families of our district,” Duncan said.
Democratic candidate Jana Lynne Sanchez stated that she respects the decision of Barton to step down and she thanks him for creating an environment that allows us to focus on issues. She added that looks forward to a spirited and issues-focused debate with whichever Republican challenger emerges from the Republican primary now that Barton has announced he will not run again.
“We are prepared to fight any Republican contender and win in this open race. We are raising enough money, connecting with enough voters and are confident that we are addressing the issues of greatest importance to constituents – better jobs for our high school graduates, well-funded public schools and affordable, universal healthcare,” Sanchez stated. “People are sick of partisan ideology and division and just want good government.”