Politics & Government

A Joe Barton Democratic opponent takes a front row seat — at Barton’s town hall

In this April 1, 2014, photo, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, questions David Friedman, the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during his testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation.
In this April 1, 2014, photo, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, questions David Friedman, the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during his testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation. AP

-Rep. Joe Barton found a familiar front row guest at his town hall meeting Thursday – a Democrat who’s running to unseat him.

Barton, R-Texas, who earlier this year told another town hall participant to "shut up,” this time had a perfectly civil dialogue with Jana Lynne Sanchez, who’s vying for Barton’s seat – and the exchange was met with applause from both Democrats and Republicans.

Barton joked Thursday about the earlier town hall conflict, saying he’d spoken to the man on the phone since then, and they both agreed “He deserved it.”

To deal with the tense, heated town hall atmosphere GOP lawmakers across the country have endured since President Donald Trump’s election, Barton has instituted a lottery system for people to ask questions. A giant digital clock sat at the front of the room Thursday, timing questions and responses.

When no one in the audience of about 50 people at the Crowley Recreation Center responded to one of the numbers called, Barton turned to Sanchez.

“I’m going to call on No. 92, since 110 is not here,” said Barton. “This is one of my potential opponents, and if she’s willing to sit on the front row, she deserves a question.”

“Thank you very much,” said Sanchez. “I have a question about term limits. As you know I’m very much in favor of term limits.”

“Bless your heart,” replied Barton, who has served in Congress since 1985 and is the longest-serving member of the Texas delegation. No, he said, he doesn’t support term limits.

Sanchez then asked Barton to tell the audience how the district was benefiting from his many re-elections. Name an accomplishment in the last decade, she urged.

Barton gently listed a handful of congressional earmarks, or local projects, that he championed, including Highway 287 and the University of Texas at Arlington School of Nursing.

Pressed about more recent accomplishments, Barton replied: “I think the single biggest thing Congress has done in the last 10 years to help the economy is repeal the ban on crude oil exports, and that was my bill.”

The audience, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, applauded. After the event, both candidates calmly worked the room, and Sanchez passed out flyers.

Barton has been re-elected easily to his heavily Republican North Texas district 16 times. Another Democratic opponent, Justin Snider, was also in the audience, and got the first question from the lottery system.

Contact: Andrea Drusch at adrusch@mcclatchydc.com

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