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Biography

Elected: 1986, 15th term.

Born: November 19, 1947, San Antonio, TX

Home: San Antonio, TX

Education: Yale U., B.A. 1969, S. Methodist U., J.D. 1975

Professional Career: U.S. Small Business Admin., 1969–70; Business writer, Christian Science Monitor, 1970–72; Practicing atty., 1975–78.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Christian Scientist

Family: Married (Elizabeth (Beth) Schaefer) , 2 children

Republican Lamar Smith, first elected in 1986, has long been among his party’s most influential conservatives on immigration. He brings a strong conservative perspective to other issues as well and became chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee in 2013.

Smith is from an old San Antonio and South Texas ranching family. Their Jim Wells County ranch has been in the family for four generations. Smith graduated from Texas Military Institute (now TMI, the Episcopal School of Texas), Yale University, and Southern Methodist University’s law school. He worked as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor and as a lawyer in San Antonio.

He was elected to the Texas House in 1980 and the Bexar County Commissioners Court in 1982. In 1986, when Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler ran for governor, Smith ran for the House seat. He won by beating two other San Antonio-based candidates in the primary and then winning the runoff 54%-46% against a religious conservative. His campaign was run by then little-known Texas political consultant Karl Rove, who became President George W. Bush’s top political advisor. Smith has been easily reelected by wide margins.

In the House, Smith has a conservative voting record and joined the Tea Party Caucus when it was formed in 2010. Like other veteran Republicans, his rhetoric has become noticeably sharper since Barack Obama became president. Smith said on the Family Research Council’s radio program in February 2015 that Obama wasn’t taking the threat of the Islamic State “seriously” and doing “nothing” to stop the extremist group because, he contended, the president thinks “America’s not exceptional.”

He took over the Science Committee after being term-limited as the Judiciary Committee chairman. In addition to cyber security and investigating the Obama administration’s science-related work, Smith promised an emphasis on the future of NASA, an important agency in Texas. But he said he wants it to focus less on scientific research and more on space exploration. Smith steered a bipartisan reauthorization bill for the agency through the House in February 2015 that included $540 billion more than the Obama administration requested to fund NASA for the rest of the fiscal year. It required NASA to provide more details on how it envisions sending humans to Mars or one of its moons, perhaps after 2030.

On climate change, Smith is a bit less of a skeptic about the issue than other conservatives on the panel, acknowledging that it “has the potential to impact agriculture, ecosystems, sea levels, weather patterns, and human health.” But when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report in November 2014 warning the problem was becoming worse and assigning even more blame to humans, Smith told Bloomberg TV that the report was "clearly biased" and added: "There’s still no explanation and no one can tell me yet what percentage of so-called climate change is due to human activity [and] what percentage is due to natural trends, natural cycles."

He introduced a bill with Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso in February 2015 that banned the Environmental Protection Agency from writing any regulations unless they were based on the “best available science” that is made publicly available. The lawmakers said too much the agency's rulemaking was secret. And he publicly rebuked the National Science Foundation for spending money on what he deemed low-priority initiatives, such as China’s milk supplies or ancient Icelandic textiles.

On Judiciary, Smith has pressed for tougher enforcement of immigration laws as an alternative to comprehensive reform, which he and many Republicans insist cannot include provisions giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. He is a strong believer in stronger action to stop illegal immigration and to reduce legal immigration. Smith irked Democrats in December 2010 when he called the DREAM Act—which would have opened up legal status to some children of illegal immigrants—an “American nightmare.” In the aftermath of a controversial law cracking down on illegal immigration in Arizona that year, Smith became a leading House Republican voice in support of the law, which allowed police to demand proof of citizenship from people stopped or questioned by police for other reasons. He criticized the Obama administration for suing to stop enforcement of the Arizona law.

When immigration emerged as a major issue for Republicans in the 113th Congress (2013-14), Smith remained steadfast. He blasted a reform initiative offered by a bipartisan group of senators in early 2013: “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.” As an alternative to legal status for immigrants, Smith proposed in 2011 to create a program that would bring 500,000 foreign migrant farm workers to the United States each year to placate farmers who complain about shortages of legally authorized labor. At the behest of technology firms, he proposed another bill to provide permanent resident visas for foreigners who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science and technology. That measure passed the House in November 2012 on a mostly party-line vote. Democrats opposed the bill because it eliminated a diversity visa lottery, which allocated spots to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. It passed the House 245 to 139.

When Obama issued an executive order protecting some of the nation's illegal immigrants, Smith was again sharply critical and joined a group of lawmakers supporting a lawsuit to stop it. "Putting a stop to these overreaching executive actions isn’t about Republicans or Democrats; it’s about respecting and restoring the rule of law," he said.

Earlier, Smith opposed Bush’s guest worker proposal in 2004 and bipartisan proposals to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States. The guest worker program, Smith said, “opens up every job in America” to low-wage competition. He insisted that better border enforcement must be in place before new guest worker programs or legalization policies were established.

Smith’s bill to split the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two agencies, one concentrating on law enforcement, the other on aid to immigrants, was passed as part of the homeland security bill in 2002. He drew attention in 2005 when one of his aides misdialed a fax number while intending to send a confidential memo to Rove at the White House, causing it to fall into Democratic hands. In the memo, Smith wrote that “liberals can easily and accurately be painted as opposing enforcement.”

Perhaps his most significant achievement in the immigration realm was passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Smith was the chief House architect changes to U.S. immigration law on several fronts. His legislation dramatically increased the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents, gave law enforcement authorities more wiretap authority, and provided new funds for state-of-the-art equipment such as helicopters, four-wheel-drive vehicles and night goggles. The law also greatly increased penalties for illegal entry into the U.S., clamped down on alien smuggling and document fraud, and toughened deportation measures. People illegally in the U.S. for 180 days to a year were barred from gaining legal status in any form for three years, and anyone unlawfully in the country for over a year was barred for 10 years.

Despite deep partisan conflicts on the committee on immigration and other issues, Smith gets along with Democrats better than others in his party, and in recent years, found common ground on bills to strengthen cyber security and intellectual property enforcement. He has worked closely with ranking Judiciary Democrat John Conyers of Michigan on patent reform issues. In April 2009, Smith and Conyers co-sponsored a bill to strengthen patent quality and to discourage frivolous lawsuits. He and Conyers also agreed with proposed structural changes made by the Patent and Trademark Office aimed at improving review quality and employee morale for an agency dealing with a heavy backlog of patent applications. The measure finally became law in 2011. The same year, he joined with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy on a bill, signed into law by President Obama, that updated patent law by switching to a system giving priority to the "first inventor to file" for a patent from the previous "first to invent" standard. The change eliminated contests at the U.S. Patent Office between people claiming near-simultaneous inventions. And it allowed for an administrative process to ensure that the first person to file a application was in fact the inventor.

Smith proposed an online piracy bill in 2011 that would give the Justice Department authority to order Internet companies to remove links to foreign websites that offer pirated goods. When Google and other technology giants launched a high-profile offensive in protest of the provision, he took it out of the bill. Smith parted with Conyers and opposed a committee proposal that eliminated mandatory minimum prison sentences for crack cocaine use. A modified version of the bill was eventually signed into law, making crack sentencing closer to the lighter penalties enforced for powder cocaine use. Smith also sharply criticized a Democratic proposal in February 2010 to impose criminal penalties of up to 20 years in jail for certain interrogation techniques in terrorism investigations.

Smith quarterbacked the redrawing of Texas’ electoral map in post-2010 census redistricting and reportedly got into a spat with Republican Joe Barton over the racial makeup of the state’s redistricted boundaries in 2012. Smith sought to evenly split four new districts between Republicans and Democrats, giving Texas’ booming Hispanic population minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. But Barton wanted to keep Republican voters dominant in three of the new districts. Barton’s plan passed the state legislature, but ultimately was tossed out of court, leading to a court-drawn map.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4236

(202) 225-8628

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2409
Washington, DC 20515-4321

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4236

(202) 225-8628

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2409
Washington, DC 20515-4321

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-4236

(202) 225-8628

Compass Bank Building Suite 640
San Antonio, TX 78209-1530

DISTRICT OFFICE

(210) 821-5024

(210) 821-5947

Compass Bank Building Suite 640
San Antonio, TX 78209-1530

DISTRICT OFFICE

(512) 912-7508

(512) 912-7519

2211 South IH-35 Suite 106
Austin, TX 78741

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-4236

(202) 225-8628

2211 South IH-35 Suite 106
Austin, TX 78741

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-4236

(202) 225-8628

301 Junction Highway Suite 346-C
Kerrville, TX 78028

DISTRICT OFFICE

(830) 896-0154

(830) 896-0168

301 Junction Highway Suite 346-C
Kerrville, TX 78028

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 6155
San Antonio, TX 78209-0155

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-4236

(202) 225-8628

PO Box 6155
San Antonio, TX 78209-0155

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Staff

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Abortion

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Agriculture

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Appropriations

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Curtis Philp
Deputy Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Banking

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

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Budget

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

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Campaign

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

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Education

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

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Energy

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Environment

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Family

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Finance

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Foreign

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Govt Ops

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Gun Issues

Curtis Philp
Deputy Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Health

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Homeland Security

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Housing

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Human Rights

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Immigration

Curtis Philp
Deputy Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Intelligence

Curtis Philp
Deputy Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Judiciary

Curtis Philp
Deputy Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Labor

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Medicare

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Military

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Native Americans

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Rules

Ashlee Vinyard
Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Seniors

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Small Business

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Social Security

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Tax

Abby Gunderson-Schwarz
Legislative Director

(202) 225-4236

Technology

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Telecommunications

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Trade

Curtis Philp
Deputy Chief of Staff

(202) 225-4236

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Transportation

Chris Morris
Legislative Correspondent

(202) 225-4236

Veterans

Scott Ferguson
Senior Legislative Assistant

(202) 225-4236

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Lamar Smith
Votes: 135,513
Percent: 71.78%
Antonio Diaz
Votes: 27,782
Percent: 14.72%
Ryan Shields
Votes: 25,483
Percent: 13.5%
2012 GENERAL
Lamar Smith
Votes: 187,015
Percent: 60.55%
Candace Duval
Votes: 109,326
Percent: 35.4%
2012 PRIMARY
Lamar Smith
Votes: 52,404
Percent: 76.63%
Richard Mack
Votes: 10,111
Percent: 14.79%
Richard Morgan
Votes: 5,868
Percent: 8.58%
2010 GENERAL
Lamar Smith
Votes: 162,924
Percent: 68.88%
Lainey Melnick
Votes: 65,927
Percent: 27.87%
2010 PRIMARY
Lamar Smith
Votes: 61,923
Percent: 81.38%
Stephen Schoppe
Votes: 14,166
Percent: 18.62%
2008 GENERAL
Lamar Smith
Votes: 243,471
Percent: 80.0%
James Strohm
Votes: 60,879
Percent: 20.0%
2008 PRIMARY
Lamar Smith
Votes: 64,350
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (69%), 2008 (80%), 2006 (60%), 2004 (61%), 2002 (73%), 2000 (76%), 1998 (91%), 1996 (76%), 1994 (90%), 1992 (72%), 1990 (75%), 1988 (93%), 1986 (61%)

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