Update, 3:15 p.m.: One potential contender for the seat U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is vacating looks to be state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood. He issued a statement this afternoon throwing his hat pretty close to the ring.
“Congressman Paul’s announcement today not to seek re-election has created a rare opportunity for public service at the national level," Taylor said in his statement. "I have received encouragement from conservative leaders across Texas this afternoon. It is an opportunity that I will consider very seriously in the coming weeks."
Late Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, sent out the following message to his Twitter followers: "I have decided not to seek re-election to Congress."
Brazoria County newspaper The Facts has more details. The 24-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives told them he planned on devoting more time to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. "I felt it was better that I concentrate on one election," he said. "It’s about that time when I should change tactics."
This will be Paul's third presidential race. His previous two — in 1988 as a Libertarian and 2008 as a Republican — ultimately came up empty.
Republican Party of Texas spokesman Chris Elam said the news caught many people, including those in high-level GOP positions in Paul's district, by surprise. "I believe this was a very closely held announcement," Elam said. "I can’t say when the congressman came to this decision, but I don’t think it was disseminated beyond his inner circle." He said it was too early to say who might run for the seat.
Yvonne Dewey, the Brazoria County GOP chairwoman, concurred. "This is a shock to everybody," she said.
Debra Medina, an ardent Paul supporter who ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, said she heard the news from Paul last night. "I think the 14th [Congressional District] is losing a statesman," she said.
Medina says she will miss Paul's helpful constituent service most of all — though she feels like she already lost it after the GOP-led Legislature, in the recent special session, redrew the state's congressional map and significantly altered Paul's district, putting Medina in a different district.
Some Texas political observers speculated that Republican legislators designed the new contours of Paul's district to make it more difficult for him to win re-election and was punishment for his years as a Tea Party thorn in the side of the GOP establishment (a charge GOP lawmakers have denied). At the time, a Paul spokesman dismissed the changes.
"If anything, this is a compliment," Jesse Benton said. "The GOP knows Dr. Paul will win anywhere he runs, and that his electoral fortitude allows them to strengthen other districts and have no problems holding the 14th."
Given the district's new boundaries, Medina said it was doubtful that she would run to replace him, even though it's something she would otherwise have considered.
"I cherish the relationship that I have with him, and the leadership and guidance that he provides to me and others who are determined to restore a constitutional republic," she said. "I’m not sure what road that will take us down, but I will speak on his behalf every chance I get."
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