Morning Digest: Another senior Texas congressman bails, and Democrats may have a shot at his seat

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

TX-21: For the second time this week, a senior Republican from Texas has announced he would retire from the House. The Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston obtained an email from Lamar Smith, who heads the Science, Space and Technology Committee, in which he declared, “For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else,” and he soon confirmed he is indeed departing. But while fellow Texan Jeb Hensarling is leaving behind a safely red seat, Smith’s 21st Congressional District is a bit more interesting.

Campaign Action

Smith’s very gerrymandered district, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and takes

part of the Texas Hill Country, backed Mitt Romney 60-38 in 2012, but it supported Donald Trump by a considerably smaller 52-42 margin last year. That’s still a lot for Democrats to overcome, but this seat could be a viable target in a good year for Team Blue, especially without an incumbent to defend it.

A few Democrats were already running before Smith hit the eject button, but only one has raised a notable amount of money. Joseph Kopser, an aerospace engineer and Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq, raised $213,000 in the third quarter and had a similar amount in his campaign account at the end of September. He or any other Democratic hopeful will need a whole lot more to flip this seat, but it’s a promising start.

As for Smith, Democrats won’t miss him too much. Like so many other members of the GOP caucus, Smith is a global warming skeptic, but as the chair of the Science Committee, he was able to do real damage to climate research. Smith is also infamous for once declaring of midnight basketball in the 1990s, “This vague social spending goes by the theory that the person who stole your car, robbed your house and assaulted your family is no more than a would-be NBA star.”

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