DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - At age 85, Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is set to announce Saturday, Nov. 20 whether she will call it a career and retire or run for another two-year term next year.
To State Senator Royce West of Dallas, who's known her for nearly 50 years, the decision is a big deal. "You're looking at an institution, an icon, the matriarch of the Democratic party here."
Representative Johnson is the longest-serving member of Congress from Texas, and if she steps away from elected office, it will mark the beginning of the end of an era.
Senator West said Friday that depending on what she announces, it could prove to be a politically seismic disruption.
"If she decides to stay, then pretty much everything will be status quo. If not, we will see a mad scramble from different individuals who want to run for her seat," Sen. West said.
This week, West just filed for re-election for his seat, which Johnson held previously.
So would West consider a run for Congress if Johnson retires? "I had to file for re-election because she had not made a decision, so I filed for re-election. Sure, I'll take it under consideration."
Johnson and her office have remained tight-lipped for months, except for issuing an advisory about her pending announcement.
Dr. Jerry Christian, the Senior Pastor at Kirkwood Temple CME Church in Oak Cliff, said Friday that as many as 500 people could show up at the church Saturday to hear Congresswoman Johnson's decision. "Listen, I don't have any idea."
Rep. Johnson became the first nurse to serve in Congress in 1993, and now serves as the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Christian said, "Personally, I would hope she stays because she's got experience, she's in leadership, and as long as her health holds up and she's strong enough to do it, I don't see any reason for us trying to anoint someone else and just push her aside. It's her call, it's her choice, and I'll support whatever she decides to do."
Those closest to Congresswoman Johnson say another key part of her legacy is serving as a mentor to other political leaders in the Dallas area.
Johnson was there when West announced he was running for U.S. Senate two years ago.
He said she inspired him when he met her in the 1970's when she served as a State Representative. "Those words of encouragement led me to get involved in student politics at UT Arlington."
Johnson has brought millions, if not billions of dollars to Dallas for DART, infrastructure, and education.
Dallas Union Station was renamed in her honor in 2019.
Christian said, "She has a marvelous legacy to stand on. She's been a pioneer."
West agreed. "You name it, Eddie Bernice Johnson has quietly, quietly done the work she was elected to do."
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