AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas will not seek re-election, his office said in a statement on Thursday, in a decision he made after a nude picture of him appeared on the internet earlier this month.
Barton’s announcement reverses his Nov. 2 announcement of plans to run for an 18th term in the U.S. House. He was first elected to Congress in 1984 and had been considered a favorite to win re-election in his heavily Republican district until the photo surfaced on Nov. 22.
Barton, 68, has told media the nude photograph came when he was separated from his second wife, prior to a divorce, and was part of a consensual sexual relationship. Barton’s genitals were obscured in the version of the photo that was posted on the internet.
Barton, who belongs to the party’s right-wing Freedom Caucus, issued the statement saying he would not seek re-election on Thursday shortly after an exclusive interview with the Dallas Morning News in which he went into more detail about his decision.
“There are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside and let there be a new voice for the 6th district in Washington, so I am not going to run for re-election,” he told the newspaper.
The source of the photo and how it appeared on the internet are still unknown.
Some Republicans in the state have called for Barton to step down and many criticized him for his behavior.
“Ellis County Republicans are deeply grieved and embarrassed by the conduct of Congressman Joe Barton,” Randy Bellomy, the head of the party in the county that borders Dallas and is Barton’s constituency, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Barton, vice chairman of the House Energy Committee, has shown strong support for the energy industry and drawn the ire of environmentalists for his dismissive views on climate change.
“We’re thankful that Representative Barton chose to not seek re-election after reports of his deeply inappropriate actions and disturbing display of judgment,” Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal Perkins said in a statement.
Barton has not been accused of sexual harassment.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott