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Barton, Powerful House Energy Leader, Won’t Seek Re-Election

Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, vice chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, said Thursday he would not seek re-election following salacious posts about his private life on social media.

Barton, first elected in 1984 to serve the Sixth District, is the longest serving Texas congressman. He was elected chairman of the Energy & Commerce committee in 2004, but was edged out of the post by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)in 2010.Barton, who serves as dean of the Texas delegation, also is the ninth most senior member of Congress.

"I am very proud of my public record and the many accomplishments of my office,” he said. “It has been a tremendous honor to represent the Sixth District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice.”

Barton has aggressively supported the oil and gas industry in Congress. He was instrumental in passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, shepherding it through the House and then chairing the conference committee which combined the measure with the Senate bill.

The Energy Policy Act overhauled U.S. energy policy for the first time in 13 years, bolstering production of oil, natural gas, electricity and renewable fuels, as well as the construction of liquefied natural gas import terminals, pipelines and gas storage facilities.

Barton’s  announcement came following a week of unsavory revelations in the news, including the appearance of a nude photo of the congressman on social media.

After working in the private sector, Barton went to work for the U.S. Department of Energy before entering politics. He was elected in 1984 to assume the seat occupied by Phil Gramm, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate.

Barton’s tenure has not been without controversy, the past few days notwithstanding. Following the Macondo oil well blowout in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Barton during a House hearing on the tragedy apologized to company executives.

BP was required by the Obama administration to set up a $20 billion compensation fund for victims.

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House…,” Barton said of the compensation fund requirements. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown..."

In a 2007 hearing, Barton also accused then-Vice President Al Gore of being “just a little off” concerning climate change and said global warming was a “net benefit to mankind.”

Said Barton in the hearing, "Global warming science is uneven and evolving.” He questioned Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," which won an Oscar as Best Documentary Film for 2006. He said the measures Gore was recommending to stem carbon emissions "fail the common sense test...they provide little benefit at a huge cost."

Potential Republican candidates for Barton’s seat have until Dec. 11 to file. Republicans Monte Mitchell and Jake Ellzey already have entered the race. Tarrant County Tax-Assessor Collector Ron Wright, a former Barton staffer, also said Thursday he may join the race.

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