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Rep. Kenny Merchant becomes fourth Texas Republican to announce retirement

Rep. Kenny Marchant announced Monday that he would not seek reelection in 2020. Marchant is now the fourth lawmaker from Texas to announce his retirement, following Reps. Pete Olson, Mike Conaway and most recently, Will Hurd.

The string of retirements come as Republicans worry that deep red Texas, a state crucial to the GOP's hopes of controlling the White House, is suddenly flashing blue. In 2018, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz only narrowly defeated then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke, while several GOP-held congressional seats flipped to Democrats. 

Marchant, who was first elected in 2004 to represent a suburban Dallas-Fort Worth district, said in a statement he is looking forward to "returning to Texas to start a new chapter."

A founding member of the House Tea Party Caucus, Marchant has consistently won by double digits since he was first elected. In 2016, Marchant had a 17 percentage point win while President Trump won by about 8 points in the district. But in 2018, Marchant had a tight 3.1 point win in 2018 against Democrat Jan McDowell. McDowell, along with six other candidates, have already filed to run again in 2020.

Marchant is the ninth Republican House member to retire within the past couple of weeks. Republicans have argued that the early announcements do make it easier to recruit candidates, although they also benefit Democrats who no longer need to worry about the notoriously difficult process of defeating an incumbent. 

Despite not having won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, Democrats are looking to capitalize on their successes last year. They point to the changing demographics in Texas major metropolitan areas, such as Dallas-Fort Worth, which is increasingly diverse due to an influx of minority voters. 

Democratic Party of Texas Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement that "Texas is the biggest battleground state" and that Marchant's retirement won't be the last.

"The district has rapidly changed and Marchant's disdain for ethics and failed Tea Party policies have no place in the DFW metroplex," said Hinojosa. "He tied himself to Donald Trump and knew that he was staring at a devastating loss against strong Democratic candidates."

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