“I have gone back and forth … the whole time because of the pleading and the asking, but as of January … the year after next, I will step down,” Johnson said during an event in Dallas. “I will retire, and let me assure that I will also recommend to you whom I feel is the best to follow me.”
Johnson added she is looking for a “female that is qualified.”
First elected to Congress in 1992, Johnson, 85, is among its most senior members — the longest-serving member from Texas — and serves as dean of the Texas delegation. She chairs 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 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 emphasized her longtime advocacy for funding for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the city’s public transit agency, calling it “my baby from the first day that I got there.” She also highlighted her role in helping flip Dallas County for Democrats in 2006.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done because there is no Texan in the history of this state who has brought more home,” Johnson said, reflecting on how she had to work across party lines during long stretches in the minority. “As much as we trash the names of some of the Republicans. they were some of the same ones that helped me be successful.”
The decision Johnson announced Saturday is consistent with what she told constituents in 2019 — that her current term would be her last. However, since winning reelection last year, she had declined to confirm that, fueling speculation about whether she would reverse herself in recent months.
Democrats began to circle her seat as questions about her 2022 plans persisted. In May, Jane Hope Hamilton, a former top staffer for Joe Biden’s campaign in Texas, launched an exploratory committee for the seat, suggesting she would run if Johnson chose not to seek reelection. And last month, Abel Mulugheta, the former chief of staff to state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, announced an outright 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 Saturday afternoon praising Johnson’s tenure, with Mulugheta saying he “hope[s] to represent the constituents of CD-30 with her same dedication and progressive vision.” Mason, who has been in the race for months, wrote on Twitter that “our community’s needs have evolved, and I appreciate [Johnson’s] ability to recognize that it’s time for a new approach.”
One potential candidate to succeed Johnson, state Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, also released a statement lauding Johnson. Crockett told The Texas Tribune that she will “evaluate things over the weekend” with regards to a possible run.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has previously been seen as a likely candidate to replace Johnson when she retires, though he filed for reelection to his current seat 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 Dallas City Council member, Vonciel Jones Hill, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for the 30th District as a Democrat.
Toward the end of her speech Saturday, Johnson was emphatic that she would endorse in the race to replace her, saying “I would appreciate you appreciating my judgment.”
“Anybody that’s been already been rejected in this district, they will not be receiving my endorsement,” Johnson said, a likely reference to Barbara Mallory Caraway, who has repeatedly challenged Johnson in primary elections over the years.
Johnson’s 30th District is set to remain one of the bluest congressional districts in the state after redistricting. It will also stay anchored in Dallas, spreading to the southern edge of the namesake county.