Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R)
Texas 5th District
Not all of Dallas is glitz and postmodern marble. East of downtown, on one of the three street grids that skew to each other, is an older Dallas with neighborhoods of old mansions, modest bungalows and shotgun houses. They extend past the old airport at Love Field, and past the State Fair Grounds and the Cotton Bowl in east Dallas. Some of this older section of Dallas is being renovated and rebuilt, with chic cafes and trendy stores. Other once middle-class neighborhoods are filling up with immigrants from Mexico and are once again noisy with children as they were in the 1950s when people moved here not from Mexico or Central America, but from the almost all-Anglo counties of north and central Texas. With the economic downturn and the scarcity of jobs, some of them are returning to Mexico.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 5th Congressional District includes much of east and southeast Dallas County, including neighborhoods in east Dallas and suburban Mesquite, which has become a destination for immigrants moving up the economic ladder. It also covers a more upscale slice of Dallas inside the freeway, including parts of Lakewood and White Rock Lake, which was rescued by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps during the New Deal. Nearly half of the district’s population is in Dallas County. The 5th contains six counties in East Texas, the largest of which are Henderson and Kaufman, which are the next high-growth areas in the Metroplex. One of the booming small towns is Forney, which has become a destination for young families. Each of the outlying counties is more heavily Republican than the Dallas portion of the district. As rural areas have swung away from the Democrats, the district switched from being a battleground in the early 1990s to safely Republican. In 2008, GOP presidential nominee John McCain won 63% of the vote in the district and 53% in Dallas County.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: May 29, 1957, Stephenville .
Education: TX A&M U., B.A. 1979, U. of TX, J.D. 1982.
Family: Married (Melissa); 2 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1982-84; TX dir., U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, 1985-90; Exec. dir., NRSC, 1991-93; Communications exec., 1993-02.
The congressman from the 5th District is Jeb Hensarling, a Republican first elected in 2002. Hensarling grew up in Morris County in East Texas. He worked on his father’s poultry farm near College Station as a teenager and decided that he did not want to be a farmer. In high school, he started a Republican club and began organizing political events. He graduated from Texas A&M University and went on to get a law degree from the University of Texas law school. After a short stint practicing law, he got a job on the staff of U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, a Republican. Hensarling rose quickly through the ranks of Gramm’s staff and was named the senator’s 1990 campaign manager. When Gramm was chosen by fellow senators as chairman the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Gramm named Hensarling as his executive director. Hensarling later returned to Texas to become vice president of communications for Green Mountain Energy, a local utility, and was co-founder of Family Support Assurance, a firm that sought to modernize child support collections.
|Jeb Hensarling (R)||162,894||(84%)||($1,005,714)|
|Ken Ashby (Lib)||31,967||(16%)|
|Jeb Hensarling (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (58%)
After the congressional redistricting in 2001, Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, who had represented the 5th District for the previous six years, decided to run in the new and more compact 32nd District on the north side of Dallas. Hensarling became the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 5th District. Like his mentor, Gramm, he listed cutting taxes as his top priority. Against four opponents, he won the nomination with 54% of the vote. For the general election, Democrats nominated Ron Chapman, a former Dallas County appellate judge who described himself as a loyal Democrat who could work with Republicans. Hensarling referred to his opponent as “Judge Softie” for his record on capital murder cases. The folksy Chapman emphasized his fiscal conservatism and deep local roots. He tried to paint Hensarling as too conservative and extreme for the district, but his message failed to take hold, especially as high-profile Republicans came through the district with endorsements, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Gramm. Hensarling won 58%-40%, and has been re-elected easily since.
In the House, Hensarling has a solidly conservative voting record. He styled himself as a fiscal conservative in the mold of Gramm and has not been afraid to push Republican leaders to take more conservative positions, though he usually voted with them in the end when they didn’t. He joined the Republican Study Committee, a group of the most conservative House members and took the lead in budget legislation. His efforts did not endear him to Republicans on the Appropriations Committee and others in the party establishment. He tried to influence Republican strategy without abandoning his own beliefs or stirring the pot with party leaders too much.
His dilemma was apparent in 2003 when he struggled over whether to vote for the Republicans’ Medicare prescription drug bill, which many conservatives criticized for creating a costly new government entitlement but was strongly supported by Bush. Hensarling claimed credit for a modest cost-containment provision and waited until the final hours before deciding to vote for the bill. Later, he led an effort to identify cuts in spending to offset the huge costs resulting from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On the Financial Services Committee in 2008, Hensarling was an outspoken opponent of the bill to rescue the financial services industry, which went against his free market principles. After the legislation passed, Hensarling was named to the House Republican slot on an oversight board to review how the money was spent. In 2009, he became the ranking Republican on the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee.
An avid foe of campaign regulations on the grounds that many of them violate the right to free speech, he sought unsuccessfully to exempt bloggers from campaign finance rules in response to a court ruling making them subject to the rules. In 2006, he spearheaded a successful effort to repeal the Wright Amendment, which limited long-distance flights from Love Field in Dallas as a way of protecting the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport from competition from Love Field. The action was a major boost for Southwest Airlines, which uses Love Field for its flights into Dallas and Fort Worth.
In December 2006, Hensarling secured what for him was the dream job in the House—chairman of the ultra conservative Republican Study Committee, where he could be the “keeper of the conservative flame” as he put it. Also at that time, Hensarling managed the losing campaign of Republican Mike Pence of Indiana in his bid against John Boehner of Ohio for the post of Republican leader. Boehner won, putting Hensarling on the wrong side of a major intraparty leadership contest.
In 2007, after Republicans lost their majority in the 2006 election, Hensarling said that Republicans needed to regain their commitment to limited government. “There is nothing quite like a two-by-four smacked across your head to get your attention,” he said in January 2007. The next year, Hensarling, as RSC chairman, crafted a seven-point strategy for House Republicans that included a constitutional amendment to limit spending and a flat tax to replace the progressive income-tax system with graduate rates as income rises. The party embraced his platform, except for his call for a moratorium on spending earmarks in appropriations bills. After the 2008 election, Hensarling was named to head fundraising for the National Republican Congressional Committee, chaired by his Dallas-area conservative colleague Pete Sessions.