The clock is ticking for Republicans to enter the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.
Tarrant County officials are charting their plans — or not — to be the next person to represent Texas’ 12th Congressional District, a ruby red area that President Donald Trump won by 18 percentage points in 2020. Political observers expect the race to draw millions of dollars and national attention.
The filing for elections begins Nov. 11 and ends Dec. 11. The primary is March 5.
The Fort Worth Report and KERA News were the first to report Granger’s intention to not seek reelection. Granger confirmed her plans to retire Wednesday morning.
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, is widely considered a contender for Granger’s seat. He has purchased campaign websites, according to The Texas Tribune.
“Today is about honoring the historic career of Congresswoman Granger,” Goldman said in a statement to the Report and KERA. “As far as my political plans go, I’m honored and humbled by all who have reached out and will have a decision made very soon.”
Goldman, chair of the state House Republican Caucus, has $707,120 in his coffers, according to mid-July campaign finance reports with the Texas Ethics Commission.
State Rep. Nate Schatzline, R-Fort Worth, would not confirm or deny any plans to run in a phone interview Wednesday. His focus right now is on the ongoing special session, he said.
“Anything is possible in the future,” he said.
Schatzline expects a lot of Republicans to jump into the primary race in the safe Republican district, he said.
James Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University, described the open race for the 12th Congressional District as a rare moment. Since 1919, only five people have represented the district — three of whom have been influential, he said.
“It’s going to be a very competitive race, even though we don’t know who those candidates will be,” Riddlesperger said.
Republican John O’Shea has been running for Granger’s seat since April. Granger was not ready for a legitimate campaign fight, O’Shea said. The congresswoman’s decision to enjoy more time with her family is well-earned after her distinguished career, he said.
O’Shea, a longtime friend of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, welcomed the likely campaign of Goldman, who voted to impeach Paxton and is a top lieutenant to state House Speaker Dade Phelan.
“Now anybody getting ready to file with just weeks remaining in the filing period and a couple of months before the primary, God, you know, it looks to me like they didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to challenge Kay Granger, and now they see it’s an open seat,” O’Shea told the Report and KERA. “They’re political opportunists.”
Chris Putnam, former mayor pro tem of Colleyville and a former Granger opponent in the Republican primary, is considering another try at the seat, he said. He’ll keep an eye on which candidates the big funders coalesce behind.
“The No. 1 thing is money. Right or wrong, running a congressional race is very, very expensive,” Putnam said. “You just can’t grassroots your way to a victory in a congressional race.”
Fundraising likely will be a problem for anyone who jumps into the race, Riddlesperger said. The primary election could require at least $1 million.
“That’s the kind of money we’re talking about,” Riddlesperger said. “It’s always a challenge to put money together to run a campaign, and you need to be in a position of having adequate resources immediately if you’re going to challenge someone who has name recognition or a position of influence right now.”
Putnam also is interested to see if Granger’s seat experiences the same rightward shift that Tarrant County’s local offices have taken in recent years, he said. He pointed to County Judge Tim O’Hare, who ran on his conservative bonafides, beating the more moderate Republican in the primaries, as an example.
O’Hare’s colleague on the Commissioners Court, Tarrant County Commissioner Manny Ramirez, confirmed he’s considering a run but wouldn’t give a timeline for his decision — just “soon.” He said people have urged him to consider a campaign. (Ramirez announced Nov. 6 that he would not run for Congress, but he said he would help elect a capable, conservative.)
“I recognize we need the next generation of conservative leadership to put results over rhetoric,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez took up his seat representing Tarrant County Precinct 4 at the beginning of the year. He and Granger represent a lot of the same people in northwest Tarrant County, he said.
Ramirez has described himself as a politician who’s interested in the hyperlocal, such as fixing roads and bridges. He’s weighing the possibility of leaving that behind and going to Washington, he said.
“Ultimately, the environment in Washington right now, I think we all recognize that it’s broken,” he said. “It’s going to take significant effort and significant energy to put it on the right track.”
O’Shea, the only active candidate so far in the race, said he had heard Ramirez’s name bandied about. O’Shea brought up the commissioner’s recent entrance into elected politics.
“I understand that sometimes people use positions for stepping stones but, I mean, he was just sworn in just recently,” O’Shea said.
Tarrant County GOP Chairman Bo French said he hopes Granger enjoys her retirement after nearly 30 years of service. He set expectations for her eventual replacement.
“It is imperative we elect a strong conservative committed to fighting the Washington swamp to fill her seat. Our voters deserve no less,” French said.
Some local officials have already confirmed they’re not running for Granger’s seat. Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker is staying put, her spokesperson told the Report and KERA.
So is O’Hare, who is “grateful to be Tarrant County judge,” he said in an emailed statement.
“My No. 1 job is taking care of my wife and kids. I’m staying right where I am,” O’Hare said.
The field will be crowded, said Thomas Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“I would not be surprised if significant outside people with big dollars got involved, too. I would think that it might end up certainly being a multimillion-dollar primary — and runoff,” Marshall said.
Riddlesperger expects more candidates to emerge in the coming weeks.
“There is no question that there are probably a dozen Republicans and maybe four or five Democrats who have been dreaming of a day when the 12th District of Texas opened up, and that they might have the wherewithal to run to replace her,” Riddlesperger said.
Austin correspondent Dave Montgomery contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Nov. 1, 2023, with comments from Republican candidate John O’Shea. This story was update Nov. 6, 2023, with Tarrant County Commissioner Manny Ramirez’s decision to not run for Congress.