State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, won't seek another term in the Texas Legislature, he said Monday, and he encouraged Victor Vandergriff — son of the former Arlington mayor, congressman and Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff — to get into the race.
Less than two hours later, Vandergriff announced that he intends to run for the seat.
Harris, a veteran lawmaker, has been in office since 1985, when he was elected to the Texas House; he moved up from the House to the Senate in 1991.
Harris is chairman of the Senate's Jurisprudence Committee and has held a number of other leadership positions over his 20 years in the Senate.
He had already drawn opposition from within his party. State Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, announced his intention to run as what he called a more conservative alternative to Harris.
Harris is the fourth Republican senator to drop out of next year's elections. Mike Jackson of La Porte is running for Congress, and Florence Shapiro of Plano and Steve Ogden of Bryan said last week they won't run again.
Here is Harris' announcement:
Chairman Chris Harris announces he will not seek re-election to the Texas Senate
Harris says he intends to spend more time practicing law and supporting the community; encourages Victor Vandergriff to seek Senate District 9 seat.
ARLINGTON, Tex. - Chairman Chris Harris, the longest serving Republican in the Texas Senate, announces today he will not seek re-election in 2012 and will return full time to his law practice and serving his community locally.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to the people of North Texas and to my family for allowing me to serve,” says Senator Harris. “It has been the greatest honor of my life that my friends and neighbors have asked me to represent them alongside so many amazing men and women for almost three decades.”
Harris began his public service in the Texas House of Representatives in 1985 where he immediately distinguished himself as a budget hawk and advocate for children and families. After his election to the Texas Senate in 1991, Harris became that body’s authority on matters of civil and criminal jurisprudence, specifically in the area of family law.
“Since my time serving with him in the Texas House of Representatives and as Lieutenant Governor and Governor, I have not seen a stronger advocate for his constituents than Chris Harris,” recalls Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Harris has consistently kept a watchful eye on education and the state budget, paying particular attention to identifying more resources for local school districts and the University of Texas at Arlington, Tarrant County’s only public 4-year university.
“UTA would not be the quality academic institution it is today if not for the relentless efforts of Senator Harris,” says UTA president James Spaniolo.
“I began this job 26 years ago with a goal of making Texas a better place,” says Harris. “I am proud of the results we have achieved working together, but there is more to be done. Senate District 9 needs strong leadership and I am encouraging Victor Vandergriff to step in and take over where I will leave off in the next legislative session.”
Senator Harris will serve out the remainder of his term ending January 2013. After retirement Harris plans to return full-time to his law practice working on behalf of the community and public entities, and enjoying more time with his wife Tammy, his children and particularly his grandchildren.
Harris’ Law partner and Mansfield mayor David Cook reminds everyone, “I have watched Senator Harris fight for the citizens of DFW for years, both as a lawyer in the courthouse and as a legislator in the statehouse. That warrior will keep fighting for what is right for the people of this region and this state.”
And here is Vandergriff's statement, which followed a short while later:
“My family and I join with folks across the Metroplex in thanking Senator Chris Harris for his decades of public service.
Our area faces many challenges in our near-term future. Like so many of our citizens and small business owners, I believe that we can create the most opportunities for growth and prosperity by promoting conservative principles in our state government. Whether it is keeping taxes low, preventing an overly burdensome regulatory environment, or eliminating wasteful spending, our state government has an important role to play in furthering job and economic growth for Texas families.
That is why it is my intention to offer myself as a candidate for the Republican nomination of the 9th Senatorial District. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be talking, and praying, with my family, friends, and leaders from around our area in order to help me make a final decision. I expect to make a formal announcement about my plans on Tuesday, October 11th."