State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a firebrand conservative Republican from Bedford and one of the most vocal members of the Texas House, announced Monday he will not run for reelection in 2020.
Stickland, first elected to represent House District 92 in 2012, broke the news to supporters in an email, saying he had “determined it is not in the Lord’s will for me to seek re-election.”
“Instead,” he wrote, “I intend to dedicate more time to my family, my church, and my business.”
While in office, Stickland established a reputation as one of the House’s more pugnacious members, often taking to the chamber’s back microphone to debate — and sometimes kill — pieces of legislation. Stickland typically argued he was pushing back against bills in the name of liberty and freedom, a nod to the hardline conservative values he aligned himself with.
Until the end of the regular 86th legislative session, Stickland was a member of the Texas House Freedom Caucus, which comprised members who said they were pushing priorities championed by the Tea Party and other conservative activists. Stickland resigned from the group at the beginning of May, telling caucus members he was recommitting himself “to the grassroots as a clear voice in the Texas House.”
Although Stickland was at times effective with his procedural maneuvers and tactics in the House, he didn’t pass his first bill until this year.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment — seven years,” he told colleagues as the House passed his measure to ban red light cameras in the state. “The people of Texas have been waiting a longer time than I have.”
While Stickland prided himself on his lone wolf image, the lawmaker was deeply unpopular with a faction of members and constituents who disagreed with his approach to politics. In the 2018 general elections, Stickland, running for a fourth term, almost lost to a little-known Democratic challenger.
Stickland appeared to have a change of heart with those election results, telling theFort Worth Star-Telegram after the elections that he was “going to try a little more honey than vinegar this time.”
But as the 2019 legislative session carried on, Stickland seemed to return to his usual ways. He killed a number of bills, including some that were perceived to be noncontroversial. He cast lone “no” votes on at least two major pieces of legislation, including a major school finance reform bill. And in the final days of the session, he publicly clashed with new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen over a major mental health bill he killed but that was later resurrected.
“What a ride we’ve had!” Stickland tweeted Monday morning. “Never sold out. Never gave up. Walking out on my own terms.”
It’s unclear who plans to run for Stickland’s House seat in 2020, though Steve Riddell, the Democrat who nearly unseated the incumbent in 2018, has already announced he plans to run again. Still, the seat is all but certain to be a target for Democrats, who are looking to play offense in competitive House districts in hopes of flipping the House in 2020.
“The simple facts are that Jonathan Stickland is too far to the right for Texas and represents an increasingly Democratic district,” Abhi Rahman, communications director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a released statement Monday. “We wouldn’t be surprised if there were more retirements because Republicans know their 2020 prospects are doomed.”