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Texas U.S. Rep. Joe Barton announces retirement from Congress amid flap over nude photos

Barton’s departure sets up competitive race for GOP-held seat in metro Dallas

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

DALLAS (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, the dean of the Texas House delegation, has announced he will not seek re-election in 2018, a week after acknowledging that he exchanged a nude photograph of himself with a woman with whom he was having a consensual extramarital relationship — a photo which wound up on social media.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas

Barton, 68, who has served in Congress since 1985, told the Dallas Morning News that “there are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside.” He said that while he still thinks he could win re-election in the 6th District, “it would be a nasty campaign, a difficult campaign for my family.”

Barton also stressed to the News that unlike a number of other politicians recently ensnared in sex scandals, his conduct was entirely consensual: “I am not guilty of sexual harassment.”

The controversy now ending Barton’s career began when a nude photo purportedly of him began circulating on Twitter, and a woman who said she had a sexual relationship with him told the Washington Post that he had threatened to contact the U.S. Capitol Police if she disseminated the photo.

The woman told the Post that she did not send the photo out on Twitter, and it remains unclear who is responsible.

After the Post story, Barton issued a statement in which he admitting having consensual sexual relationships with other women while separated from his second wife, prior to their divorce in 2015.

“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,” he said in the statement. Barton has also said that police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the release of the photo.

Barton’s departure creates a sudden, unexpected opening that will likely draw a crowd of aspiring congressmen, particularly on the Republican side. The 6th District takes a swath of suburbs between Dallas and Ft. Worth, plus Ellis and Navarro counties to the South.

While the district leans Republican, the tilt is not overwhelmingly so — Barton carried it with 58 percent of the vote in 2016, and Donald Trump took just 54 percent. Five Democrats are already running for the seat.

Barton, who is currently the longest-serving member of the Texas delegation, becomes the seventh Texas U.S. House member to forego re-election in 2018, joining Republicans Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling and Lamar Smith and Democrats Beto O’Rourke and Gene Green.

All except O’Rourke are leaving Congress; he is running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

Two Southern conservative newspapers bolt from Trump

Dallas Morning News endorses Hillary Clinton; Richmond Post-Dispatch opts for Johnson

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states smDALLAS (CFP) — Two major Southern newspapers that are normally stalwartly Republican on their editorial pages have broken with the party for the first time in decades in refusing to endorse Donald Trump for president.

The Dallas Morning News endorsed Hillary Clinton, the first time Texas’s largest newspaper has endorsed a Democrat since before World War II. The Richmond Times-Dispatch endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson, ending a string of Republican presidential endorsements stretching back to 1980.

The Morning News editorial board not only endorsed Clinton, it ran a separate, scathing editorial calling Trump unqualified to be president and urging readers not to vote for him.

“Donald Trump is no Republican and certainly no conservative,” the editorial said. “We have no interest in a Republican nominee for whom all principles are negotiable, nor in a Republican Party that is willing to trade away principle for pursuit of electoral victory.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

While Clinton has “real shortcomings,” including showing “poor judgment” in using a private email server when she was secretary of state, the paper told its readers that, in comparison, Trump is worse.

“Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy,” the editorial said. “For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.”

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson

The  Times-Dispatch endorsed Johnson in a September 4 editorial, despite the fact that Virginia’s junior U.S. Senator, Tim Kaine, is Clinton’s vice presidential running mate.

“Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president,” the editorial said. “Fortunately, there is a reasonable — and formidable — alternative.”

The Richmond paper called Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, “a man of good integrity, apparently normal ego and sound ideas. Sadly, in the 2016 presidential contest, those essential qualities make him an anomaly.”

The paper also said that while Kaine’s presence on the Democratic ticket “flatters” Virginia, “it is futile to vote for a presidential candidate because one likes the vice presidential nominee.”

The Times-Dispatch has endorsed every Republican presidential candidate since 1980. The GOP candidate carried Virginia in every election from 1968 until 2008, when Barack Obama moved the Old Dominion into the Democratic column.

The last time the Morning News did not endorse the GOP standard-bearer was in 1964, when it remained neutral in the contest between Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, a Texan running against Republican U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. It had not endorsed a Democrat since throwing its support to Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, as World War II loomed.

A Democrat has not carried Texas in the presidential race since 1976.

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