State Rep. Jim Keffer, an Eastland Republican who was one of the earliest supporters of House Speaker Joe Straus, has decided not to seek re-election next year, according to a statement he prepared for the Hood County News that was widely posted on social media Tuesday evening.
Sources familiar with his plans confirmed the news; Keffer could not immediately be reached for comment.
First elected in 1996, Keffer is finishing his 10th term in the Texas House. He chairs the Natural Resources Committee and previously led the committees on Energy Resources, Ways and Means, Property Tax Relief and Economic Development.
His departure leaves only three members of the original Polo Road Gang — the 11 Republicans who met privately at state Rep. Byron Cook’s house on Polo Road in Austin before the 2009 legislative session to decide who they would unite behind in the race for speaker of the House. The 2008 elections left the House split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats, destabilizing then-Speaker Tom Craddick’s coalition and setting the stage for a change in leadership. The 11 Republicans chose Straus, picked up some other Republicans and a majority of Democrats, and elected him that January.
Now, only Straus, Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Cook remain in office.
That successful effort to put Straus in office also raised the ire of some Republicans, who have been gunning for control of the House ever since. GOP primary challengers to Cook, Geren and Keffer announced their candidacies before the recent session had ended. Mike Lang will be running in Keffer’s House District 60 seat. Geren has said he will seek re-election. Cook has not announced his intentions.
The newspaper ad announcing the decision is topped by a picture of Keffer and his wife Leslie, and reads:
"Having now finished my 10th Regular session in the Texas Legislature, I intend to complete my current term as State Representative (District 60) but will not seek reelection in the 2016 Republican primary. It has been the highest honor and greatest privilege to serve you. Since our initial election victory in 1996, Leslie and I strove at all times to put rural Texas families first while working under three Texas Governors (George W. Bush, Rick Perry and Greg Abbott). We now bid an affectionate farewell to the august body of men and women who will carry forward the responsibilities of our state government. At the end of this term (January 2017), we will take our leave of all the employment of public life with no regrets. Having ever-lasting friendships across the district, and with now grown children and young grandchildren, we are ready to share all that is great about being Texans. Thank you! God Bless Texas."