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2017-11-09

Congressman cites two good reasons to call it quits (grandchildren)

By Bev Barr

Earlier this year, Rep. Lamar Smith visited the nonprofit organization Honor Veterans Now, dedicated to providing veterans with hot meals. HVN is located in Fredericksburg. Pictured from left to right is communication director Erin Jordon, Rep. Lamar Smith and COO Tom Holubik.


Editor’s note: On Nov. 2 Lamar Smith scheduled a phone call with the press to answer questions pertaining to his decision not to run for reelection at the end of the current term. I missed that phone call because of a previously scheduled appointment. Rep. Smith called me the next morning and graciously answered my questions and even shared a favorite story about Bandera, which I think demonstrates what many people enjoy about Bandera.


On Nov. 2, press secretary Jennifer Pett sent a press release in the form of a personal letter from Congressman Lamar Smith to media outlets nationwide stating that he would not run for reelection at the end of the current term, which is his sixteenth term of office.
The following day, during a press call, Rep. Smith stated emphatically that the “toxic political environment” and “toxic reporting” had no impact on his decision.
“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else,” he said. “At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!”
For some, Rep. Smith’s decision came as a surprise because of an assumption that he would stay in Congress at least as long as President Trump is in office. After 30 years, it seems the administration is finally in step with the Texas congressman from District 21. Not only that, Rep. Smith was well positioned to possibly chair the Homeland Security Committee.
“Good point,” Rep. Smith said. “It’s nice to have a Republican administration and that kind of support close-by for projects. … And I don’t think President Trump is getting the credit he deserves. … I have no idea in what way, but if there’s a way for me to help the administration — I’ll do it. You don’t just give up on everything you’ve worked on and dedicated your life to for 30 years,” Rep. Smith said. “I’ll be involved, but in different ways.”
Rep. Smith has chaired the Ethics, Judiciary, and Science Committees, and also served as a member of the Homeland Security and Budget Committees. “I’ve been able to shape policy involving ethics, immigration, crime, intellectual property, space, energy, the environment, the budget and high tech,” he said.
One piece of significant bi-partisan legislation Rep. Smith co-authored with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (a Democrat from Florida) was the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act (PCIP), or PROTECT Act. (In the Senate, Senator Cornyn is the lead sponsor and cosponsors include Senator Cruz and Senator Diane Feinstein.)
The PROTECT Our Children Act originally passed in 2008, and authorized the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program. The ICAC Task Force is a coordinated group representing 3,500 federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies that engage in investigations across the country.
“In less than 10 years, ICAC arrests have gone from 2,500 a year nationwide, to over 9,300 in 2016 alone,” Rep. Smith said. “Last week, Thursday evening (Nov. 2), President Trump reauthorized the bill.”
When asked if he had plans to endorse a candidate in his stead, Rep. Smith said that he wouldn’t get involved in the primaries — that he trusts the American people and the process. He also said he knew that there were a number of people who would probably run who had not declared their candidacy yet, and that he doubted that his successor would be one of the numerous challengers for the seat out of Austin.
“It is humbling living in a small apartment in Washington four nights a week,” he said. “And I seldom leave the office before late at night. But traveling back to Texas almost every weekend recharges the batteries.”
As the conversation wound down, Rep. Smith said he wanted to share a story he always tells about Bandera. His telling went something like this:
I was in Bandera some years ago and I’m sitting at Busby’s having my favorite BBQ lunch and notice a lot of commotion in the street and wonder what’s going on. Turns out a longhorn had escaped and a few minutes later we see it. We see this longhorn coming right down the middle of Main Street, with its 6-foot wide horns (laughter.) It’s being followed by a pickup truck with a trailer and the gate’s open on the trailer, a police car — and about 100 people! The law enforcement was out – everybody was out —trying to catch this longhorn. Just about the time we think it’s over and are saying to ourselves, ‘Nowhere else in the world could this happen but Bandera’ … about 5 minutes later — we look out the window and see the longhorn coming back down Main Street heading the other direction, with everybody following it just like before. Oh my we were laughing so hard. They finally caught it right in front of us -- and I have to say we had a very good attendance record at the town hall meeting shortly after. Nowhere else could something like that happen — but Bandera. And that’s one reason I really do love Bandera.