Two Texas Republicans in Congress announced this week they are exiting the stage at the end of their terms, shaking up the state's political scene ahead of the 2018 elections. With primary season around the corner, who in the state already has an eye on those open slots? Here's what you need to know:
• U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio is calling it quits after his 16th term in Congress. Smith, current chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote Thursday that "this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege" of representing Texas' 21st Congressional District — a chunk of land that runs through the cities of Austin and San Antonio. Speculation immediately started over who could run for the open seat in 2018 — state Reps. Jason Isaac and Lyle Larson and state Sen. Donna Campbell emerged as possible contenders. Jennifer Sarver, a GOP communications consultant in Austin, confirmed to The Texas Tribune that she's "taking a serious look" at running. Despite the district's solid red leaning, it's worth keeping an eye on the Democratic side of the race; veteran Joseph Kopser outraised Smith in both the second and third fundraising quarters, landing well ahead of other Democrats vying for the seat.
• And U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas is leaving after eight terms. Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, announced Tuesday he planned to step down from his post in Texas' 5th Congressional District. "I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment," he said, "and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned." Former U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida and Beth Van Duyne, a current Trump administration official and former Irving mayor, are two names already being floated as potential candidates for the seat. In the #txlege realm, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, is "exploring" a possible run and is expected to make a decision "very soon," per the Tribune's Patrick Svitek.
• The Trump effect? President Donald Trump's administration has caused rifts within the GOP and other departures from Congress, but Smith said Thursday that the tense political scene didn't have an "impact on my decision whatsoever" to retire. Plus, both Hensarling and Smith are term-limited chairmen who must soon hand over their powerful gavels — a factor that probably played a role in their decisions to exit.