A colleague once said, “If you look up ‘Ted Poe’ in the dictionary, the definition would be ‘Iconic Texan who loves America, Texas, his family and our Lord.’” That is how Pete Olson (R-Sugarland) describes his dear friend and colleague Ted Poe.
Poe (R-Humble) is indeed an icon, and on Nov. 7, the sixth-generation Texan and staunch Republican announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018. The 69-year-old legislator has served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Poe handily won his 2016 re-election bid, and prior to serving in the House, was a former longtime prosecutor and judge.
Poe says he is ready to move on to the next phase of life.
“I am grateful for the honor and privilege to represent the best people in America, Texas’s Second Congressional District,” said Poe. Poe’s district includes north Houston suburbs, parts of west Houston, and the Humble/Kingwood area.
Poe said he has been honored to serve the Humble/Kingwood area, but he’s ready for more time in Texas.
“When I first came to office, all four of my kids were single. They are now all married and we have 12 grandchildren. I am looking forward to spending quality time with my grandkids while they are still young and returning to Texas on a full-time basis.”
Last summer, Poe was diagnosed with leukemia. Olson knew something was wrong when Poe didn’t show up for the July House committee hearing to hear Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s testimony outlining why the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her email scandal.
Olson said, “This is his [Poe’s] bread and butter. He was a judge. You’d think he’d be here. If he’s not here, something bad’s happened.”
Olson was right, but Poe was determined to defeat his cancer and return to Congress, and after a summer of treatment at M.D. Anderson, he did just that.
Poe assures his constituents that he is in good health now.
“Thanks to the good Lord, I’m in good health, but it’s time for the next step,” Poe said in a statement. He says that he is looking forward to spending time back home in Texas with his 12 grandchildren -- all of whom have been born since he first took office in 2004.
Poe joins four other senior Texan lawmakers who have also announced their retirements: Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), Sam Johnson (R-Richardson), Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas) and Beto O’Roarke (D-El Paso). Term limits require them to give up roles as committee chairmen, and that’s one reason they’re stepping down now.
Poe is proud of the work he has accomplished in the Second Congressional District and assures residents that he will continue to work every day until he retires at the end of his current Congressional term.
“And that’s just the way it is,” Poe said. Poe is well known for ending his speeches in the same manner as CBS’ famous news anchor Walter Cronkite.
Poe’s proudest moments have involved fighting for constitutional rights and individual liberty, immigration and foreign affairs. He also cites his work to combat human trafficking and violence against women, as well as his efforts to ensure that crime victims have a voice.
Poe is known for his no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, call-it-like-you-see-it approach to legislating. Poe was at odds with the House Freedom Caucus this spring when they defeated the Republican repeal of Obamacare. At that time, Poe described his colleagues as unproductive and lacking leadership: “They’d vote ‘no’ against the Ten Commandments if it came up for a vote.”
Criminal justice has always been a hallmark issue during his entire career. He is famous for his signature style of “Poe-tic justice.” Indeed, Judge Poe is famous for his creative and unusual sentencing. For example, he regularly ordered convicted child molesters to post warning signs on their homes stating “No children under the age of 18 allowed on these premises by court order.” He has been known to sentence shoplifters to return to the store they stole from, all the while carrying a sign disclosing their crime to passersby.
Poe simply said that a “judge should try to get the attention of the offenders by making the sentence mean something. I found that it did work. It took more effort on my part, but it kept people from coming back through the system.”
Poe has an unfailing and constant presence on the House floor. The Texas Tribune reports that Poe has delivered so many speeches, that he even surpasses U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) in that regard.
Poe may well be the most popular Texan within Congressional walls. Both sides of the aisle consider him to be a rock star.
Now, the 2018 mid-term race to replace Poe is a year away. The Republican primary is right around the corner in March 2018. The seat will likely stay Republican given the district’s demographics. State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) from District 126 in Northwest Harris County has already announced he will run for Poe’s vacated seat. Democratic challengers will surface as well, like nonprofit executive Todd Litton, who has kept up pretty well with Poe’s ability to fund raise.
“And that’s just the way it is.”