U.S. Rep. Joe Barton — who has come under fire for a nude photo shared online and private messages with sexual overtones he exchanged with a constituent — announced Thursday he won’t seek another term in office.

The nude photo of the Ennis Republican was shared before Thanksgiving, and Barton later apologized.

One day after the Star-Telegram obtained and published a story about Facebook messages that included a mix of politics and questions about whether the woman was “wearing a tank top only… and no panties,” Barton announced he would not seek re-election, contradicting plans announced earlier in the month.

“I’m glad he came to his senses,” said Kelly Canon, the woman with whom the congressman exchanged messages in 2012 and 2013 while he was still married to his second wife, Terri. “I’m a little disheartened that it took me coming forward to make him realize it’s more than just a (nude) picture — it’s a pattern.

“But I’m very relieved.”

Canon is active in the Republican party and said she and Barton had messaged via Facebook for several years, mostly discussing politics.

A number of high-level Republicans in recent days called on Barton — who has represented the district since 1985 — to give up his re-election bid after the photo and messages were made public.

He is not the first elected official to come under fire for inappropriate relationships with women. But he is the first to indicate he will not seek re-election.

“As a young Congressman, my slogan was ‘listening to you in Texas, working for you in Washington.’ For me that was never just a saying, but a commitment — a way of life,” Barton, 68, said in a statement. “Over the last thirty three years, I have held thousands of public meetings and visited with so many great people in Texas on issues important to them.

“In Washington, I have voted over 20,000 times on the House Floor to hopefully make life a little better for the people in the 6th District.”

Barton will serve out his term, which expires Jan. 1, 2019.

Republican Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector Ron Wright — a former chief of staff and district director for Barton — said he will file as soon as Friday to run for the 6th Congressional District, which includes most of Arlington and Mansfield and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.

“Joe has been through a lot and he’s in my prayers,” Wright said. “I hope others will pray for him.

“But this race is about the future.”

What happened?

Barton has been a fixture in Congress since winning his first bid for office in 1984 after Phil Gramm decided to run for the Senate.

He drew national attention the day before Thanksgiving, when he apologized for the presence of the nude photo he had sent to a woman he had been dating, which was posted anonymously on Twitter.

“I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days,” he said in a statement released to several media outlets Wednesday. “I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”

Residents in his hometown of Ennis had mixed reactions, ranging from disbelief to disgust. Then earlier this week, a group of Tarrant County Republicans met privately with Barton to talk about his plans to seek another term in office.

Several told him that they didn’t think he should.

Two days later — after Canon went public with the messages — elected officials including state Sens. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, and Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, began echoing those sentiments.

Barton seemed uncertain, saying he was talking to family and colleagues and waiting for the results of a poll asking party faithful to see if his behavior and the nude photo would make a difference in a re-election bid.

Filing for slots on next year’s March 6 primary ballot runs until Dec. 11.

Wright said he plans to file in Austin no later than early next week. Republican J.K. “Jake” Ellzey, a Texas Veterans Commission member who lives in Midlothian, also has filed to run for the post.

Several Democrats are in the race, including Ruby Faye Woolridge of Arlington, who ran against Barton in 2016; Jana Lynne Sanchez, a public relations specialist from Arlington; Levii R. Shocklee of Arlington; and John W. Duncan.

Texas Democrats were quick to weigh in on Barton’s decision.

“Serving in elected office is one of the highest honors bestowed on a citizen,” said Crystal K. Perkins, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. “Texans are right to believe that public servants (on both sides of the aisle) should be held to the highest moral and ethical standard.

“We’re thankful that Representative Barton chose to not seek re-election after reports of his deeply inappropriate actions and disturbing display of judgment,” she said. “As citizens, who represents us in elected office is one of the most important decision we can make. We’re proud to say that Texans of the 6th congressional district will have a real choice in both the Democratic Primary and the general election in 2018.”

Through the years

When Barton first arrived in Congress, Republicans were in the minority — and had been for years.

Once the Republican revolution arrived in 1994, “he then enjoyed the advantages of majority status for a decade,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.

During that time, a hallmark of his tenure was serving as chairman of the House Energy Committee for two terms.

And through the years, Barton weighed in on issues ranging from energy to health care to climate change.

He once picked up the nickname “Smokey Joe” for defending industries against tighter pollution controls.

But many point to his work in the energy field, particularly the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that put in place the largest reform of the country’s energy program in decades.

Political observers note that Barton drew attention over time for work touching on helping families of first responders through the Wounded Officer Recovery Act, trying to block an autism bill in 2006 and piecing together Medicaid care for children who suffer from devastating diseases but don’t live close to the care they need.

“Congress has its workhorses and show horses, and Barton has always been much more the former than the latter,” Jones said. “Unlike some of his current DFW colleagues who occupy positions at the pinnacle of congressional power like Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions, Barton has in recent years played the role of the reliable back bencher.

“Throughout his 30-plus year tenure Barton has consistently been seen as a reliable friend of the fossil fuel energy industry, working on its behalf in the House Energy Committee as well as on the floor.”

Changing times

When Barton arrived in Congress, he was one of the most conservative Texas Republicans. As the Republican Party has shifted, he now is among the more centrist.

Some say his legacy isn’t all based on what he did.

“Rep. Barton’s career has been what he’s been against instead of for,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “He made waves challenging climate change, autism funding legislation or the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.”

And for the most part, he was by many considered a “reliable conservative vote,” he said.

Barton on Thursday said in his statement that he is proud of his public record.

“It has been a tremendous honor to represent the 6th District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice,” according to the statement. “I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection in 2018.

“To the people of the 6th District, thank you for your support and friendship.”

Barton was in the spotlight several other times this year, including once for helping shepherd the GOP baseball team through a tragic shooting.

In June, Barton, manager of the team, was at the batting cages with his sons Brad and Jack before he walked over to watch one of the last practices before the charity baseball game against Democratic congressmen.

As he stood near the on-deck circle by first base, trying to decide who would be at the top of the batting order, the first shot rang out.

He and his sons were not shot, but afterward, he was shaken and called for an increase in political civility.

Earlier this year, though, he drew attention during a March town hall meeting that drew a boisterous crowd. After he was booed, he told one man: “You, sir, shut up.”

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