Republican Rep. Kay Granger, who chairs the influential House Appropriations Committee, confirmed Wednesday that she would not seek a 15th term in Congress, following reporting late Tuesday night from the Fort Worth Report that she would retire.
Texas' 12th Congressional District, which is based in the Fort Worth area, favored Donald Trump 58-40 in 2020, so whoever wins the GOP nod should have little trouble in the fall. The primary is set for March 5, though a May 28 runoff would take place if no one wins a majority of the vote in the first round.
Granger's announcement came only a little more than a month before the Dec. 11 filing deadline, though one person was already running against the congresswoman. Businessman John O’Shea attracted little attention when he launched his campaign in April, however, and he finished September with a mere $20,000 in the bank. O’Shea, though, has the backing of Attorney General Ken Paxton, a far-right favorite who has survived numerous scandals and a high-profile impeachment.
State House GOP Caucus Chair Craig Goldman, meanwhile, has been talked about as a possible Granger successor for a while, and the Texas Tribune notes that an unknown party reserved several domain names relevant to Goldman in the days before Granger announced her departure. Goldman responded to the Star-Telegram's inquiries about his interest by saying only that Wednesday was a day to celebrate the congresswoman's accomplishments.
The Tribune adds that wealthy businessman Chris Putnam, who lost to Granger 58-42 in the 2020 primary, is considering. State Rep. Nate Schatzline and former Fort Worth City Councilman Brian Byrd, meanwhile, don't appear to have outright said no. Tarrant County Commissioner Manny Ramirez gave a similar response to the paper, though he explicitly said he wasn't ruling out a bid. However, Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare, who is the county's top executive official, and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker were both quick noes.
Granger, who founded an insurance agency, got her start in public life in the early 1980s when she joined the Fort Worth Zoning Commission. She first assumed elected office in 1989 when she won a seat on the City Council, a body whose nonpartisan nature kept her from having to publicly identify with a party. (Texas Democrats were still a force at the time, though not for much longer.)
That state of affairs continued two years later when she won a promotion to mayor, a similarly nonpartisan post. Longtime political observer Bud Kennedy would recount to the Daily Beast in 2013, "She was carefully centrist in the way she led the city."
That led both Democrats and Republicans to see Granger as a prize recruit in 1996, when Democratic Rep. Charlie Geren, a conservative who had been elected to succeed none other than former Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, decided to retire from a previous version of the 12th. Granger settled on the GOP, though, and she beat her nearest opponent 69-20 in her first-ever Republican primary.
In a sign of just how different things were three decades ago, Granger campaigned as a supporter of abortion rights. She had little trouble in the general election against Democrat Hugh Parmer, a former Fort Worth mayor who had badly lost a 1990 race to unseat Republican Sen. Phil Graham. Granger beat Parmer 58-41 even as, according to analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, Bill Clinton narrowly beat Republican Bob Dole by 46.3-45.5 in the 12th. (Independent Ross Perot, who hailed from neighboring Dallas, took 8%.)
Granger's win made her the second Republican woman to represent Texas in Congress after Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the first to serve in the House; there would not be another until Beth Van Duyne won the neighboring 24th District in 2020. Granger, who is tied with Maine Sen. Susan Collins as the longest-serving Republican woman in congressional history, owed her longevity in part to the fact that she only faced one serious reelection challenge during her long career.
That expensive primary battle took place in 2020, when Putnam tried to portray Granger as insufficiently pro-Trump even though she had Trump's endorsement. Putnam, who had the Club for Growth on his side, also tried to tie the incumbent to long-running problems at an expensive local development project called Panther Island that used to be led by the congresswoman's son.
But Granger and her backers at the Congressional Leadership Fund fought back by reminding voters that she was Trump's candidate, and she defeated her opponent by 16 points ahead of another easy general election. While Putnam initially announced he'd seek a rematch the following cycle, his decision not to file left her Granger on a glide path to yet another term.
Granger became chair of the Appropriations Committee after her party retook the House in 2022. From that powerful perch, she was one of the most prominent Republicans to vote against making Jim Jordan speaker. She described that stance as "a vote of conscience," adding, "Intimidation and threats will not change my position." But the chairwoman, like the rest of her caucus, embraced far-right Rep. Mike Johnson a short time later, saying she'd work with him "to advance our conservative agenda."
Correction: This story incorrectly described Craig Goldman as state House majority leader and Brian Byrd as a state representative. They are instead the majority caucus chair and a former Fort Worth city councilman, respectively.