“I’ve been going back and forth … all the time because of the plea and the request, but from January … the year after next year, I’ll step down,” Johnson said during an event in Dallas. “I want to retire and let me assure you that I will also recommend you who I feel is the best to follow me.”
Johnson added that she is looking for a “woman who is qualified.”
First elected to Congress in 1992, Johnson, 85, is among its most senior members – the longest-serving member of Texas – and serves as dean of the Texas delegation. She is chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
A former state legislator, Johnson is known for breaking barriers. She was the first black woman ever elected to a public office in Dallas when she won a State House seat in 1972. She went on to become the first registered nurse to ever serve in Congress.
Speaking Saturday, surrounded by family, Johnson underscored her longtime advocate for funding the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the city’s public transportation agency, calling it “my baby from the first day I got there.” She also highlighted her role in helping turn Dallas County for Democrats in 2006.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done because there are no Texans in the history of this state who have brought more homes,” Johnson said, reflecting on how she had to work across party lines for long stretches in the minority. “As much as we throw in the names of some of the Republicans. They were some of the same people who helped me succeed.”
The decision Johnson announced on Saturday is in line with what she told voters in 2019 – that her current term would be her last. However, since winning the re-election last year, she had refused to confirm it, prompting speculation as to whether she would return in recent months.
Democrats began circling her seat as questions about her 2022 plans continued. In May, Jane Hope Hamilton, a former top executive for Joe Biden’s campaign in Texas, launched a polling committee for the seat that suggested she would run if Johnson chose not to seek re-election. And last month, Abel Mulugheta, the former Chief of Staff of the State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, announced a direct campaign for the seat. Jessica Mason, a Navy veteran and progressive activist, is also running for the Democratic nomination.
Both Hamilton and Mulugheta issued statements on Saturday afternoon praising Johnson’s tenure, in which Mulugheta said he “hopes[s] to represent the components of CD-30 with her same dedication and progressive vision. “Mason, who has been in the race for several months, wrote on Twitter that” our society’s needs have evolved and I appreciate [Johnson’s] ability to recognize that it is time for a new approach. “
A potential candidate to succeed Johnson, State Representative Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, also issued a statement on Johnson. Crockett told The Texas Tribune she will “evaluate things over the weekend” regarding a possible race.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has previously been seen as a likely candidate to replace Johnson when she retires, even though he sought re-election to his current seat a few days ago. He confirmed to the Tribune after Johnson’s announcement Saturday that he would run for another term in the Texas Senate.
Within hours of Johnson’s announcement, a former member of the Dallas City Council, Vonciel Jones Hill, submitted paperwork to the Federal Election Commission to run for the 30th District as a Democrat.
Towards the end of her speech on Saturday, Johnson was emphatic that she would support in the race to replace her, saying “I would appreciate you appreciating my judgment.”
“Anyone who has already been rejected in this district, they will not receive my support,” Johnson said, a likely reference to Barbara Mallory Caraway, who has repeatedly challenged Johnson in primary elections over the years.
Johnson’s 30th District remains one of the bluest congressional districts in the state after redistribution. It will also remain anchored in Dallas and spread to the southern edge of the same county.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, impartial media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.