State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr.’s decision comes as a surprise after he announced earlier this year he was running for reelection. Credit: Juan Figueroa/The Texas Tribune

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State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, announced Thursday that he is not seeking reelection after three decades in the upper chamber.

He made the announcement during a news conference in Harlingen, saying he wanted to focus on family and other opportunities.

Lucio’s decision comes as a surprise — earlier this year he announced he was running for reelection, and his office confirmed that remained his plan during the redistricting process this fall.

Lucio, vice chair of the Senate Education and Finance committees, has served in the Senate since 1991. He became known as a stalwart advocate for the needs of the Rio Grande Valley — and for breaking with his party on some major issues, making him easily the most moderate Democrat in the Senate.

Lucio opposes abortion and voted in support of Texas’ new abortion restriction law that went into effect in September. He supports school choice, putting him at odds with fellow Democrats who believe it harms public schools. And he infuriated the LGBTQ community in 2017 when he voted for the “bathroom bill” that would have restricted transgender Texans’ access to certain public facilities.

Lucio’s independence has endeared him to GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who regularly compliments him and has even campaigned for him.

Lucio said Thursday he urges “those in public service today to be bipartisan, to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ.” He also highlighted his abortion views, saying he has “never made a secret of my pro-life convictions.”

Lucio faced his first real primary opposition in a while in 2020 and got forced into a runoff, which he won by a comfortable margin. Lucio was facing the prospect of another competitive primary next year, with state Rep. Alex Dominguez, D-Brownsville, exploring a run for the seat in Senate District 27.

Redistricting made SD-27 less safe for Democrats, changing it from a district that President Joe Biden won by 16 percentage points to one he would have carried by 6 points.

Lucio’s son, Eddie Lucio III, serves in the House and recently announced he would not seek reelection. A spokesperson said at the time that he did not plan to run for any other office this election.

Eddie Lucio Jr. has nonetheless spoken openly about his hopes for his son’s political future and devoted a section of his speech Thursday to praising him.

“He’s taught me, a much older man, what it is about commitment and unconditional love,” Eddie Lucio Jr. said.

The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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