State Rep. Tracy King, a moderate Democrat in a Republican-leaning district, announces retirement

State Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, presents a bill to the House floor during session at the state Capitol on April 18, 2023. (Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune, Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune)

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State Rep. Tracy King, D-Uvalde, announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection, creating a top pickup opportunity for Texas Republicans.

“We served 14 regular sessions and 14 special sessions (so far) and no doubt could cruise to another win in 2024 but I’m tired and want to slow down,” the moderate Democrat said in a statement sent to local media in his district.

King, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, was first elected to the House in 1994. He has chaired multiple other committees over the years, including the Agriculture and Livestock Committee.

King represents the district where the Uvalde school shooting took place last year and afterward authored a bill to raise the age to buy certain semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. That bill surprisingly passed a House committee but never received a vote on the floor.

Beyond Uvalde, King’s House District 80 includes a portion of rural South Texas that wraps around Laredo and partially runs along the Mexican border. It also spreads northeast toward the San Antonio area.

Former President Donald Trump would have carried King’s district by 4 percentage points in 2020 had the current district boundaries been in place. Gov. Greg Abbott won it by 6 in 2022. It was the only Democratic-held state House district that Abbott carried.

Despite the favorable trends, Republicans did not field a candidate against King in 2022. They had been trying not to make the same mistake in 2024, and on Monday, the Associated Republicans of Texas named the seat one of five targets for next November.

King’s announcement came four days after another South Texas Democrat, state Rep. Abel Herrero of Robstown, announced he would not run for reelection. His district is not as competitive for Republicans, but they are also likely to seriously contest it.

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