Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1994, 11th term.

Born: July 15, 1958, Clarendon, TX

Home: Clarendon, TX

Education: TX Tech. U., B.A. 1980, U. of TX, J.D. 1983

Professional Career: Legis. cnsl., U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler, 1983–85; Chief of staff, U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, 1985–88; Dpty. asst. secy. of state for Legis. Affairs, 1988–89; Practicing atty., 1989–94; Rancher 1989-94.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Sally Adams) , 2 children

Mac Thornberry, first elected in 1994, is considered one of Congress’ brainiest and most thoughtful Republicans on national and domestic security issues. He capped a long tenure on the House Armed Services Committee by assuming the chairmanship in 2015, becoming the first Texan to hold that post.

His great-great-grandfather, Amos Thornberry, a Union Army veteran and staunch Republican, moved to Clay County, just east of Wichita Falls, in the 1880s. A year after Amos died in 1925, his son bought the cattle ranch that Mac Thornberry, his brothers, and father now run. After college and law school in Texas, Thornberry worked for Texas Republican Reps. Tom Loeffler and Larry Combest. He returned to practice law in West Texas, and in 1994, challenged Democratic Rep. Bill Sarpalius, whom he attacked for voting for President Bill Clinton’s budget and tax legislation. He also profited from news stories that said Sarpalius failed to pay a company that moved him to Washington, and then accepted a fee for speaking at the company’s convention in Las Vegas. Thornberry won 55%-45%, and has rolled up large reelection margins ever since.

In the House, Thornberry has a solidly conservative voting record, though he is hardly the most ideological Republican in the Texas delegation. In keeping with his scholarly nature, his official website includes an essay explaining his philosophy and his interest “in continuing to push government to work smarter and more efficiently.” He told National Journal that he spends an increasing amount of time dispelling inaccurate rumors from constituents that reach his office, such as one in 2012 that the Homeland Security Department was stockpiling ammunition to create a private army. To further discourage such talk, “one thing we (lawmakers) can do is not feed the beast,” he said. “It’s tempting to play to the crowd, and they may whoop and holler and love you for it. But you’re doing people a disservice.”

In taking over at Armed Services, Thornberry quickly made clear that he would seek to be a firm check on the Obama administration. "Congress is sometimes criticized for exercising its proper role in defense," he said in a forceful January 2015 speech, citing Capitol Hill's decision to block the Pentagon's decision to shut down the country's lone tank-production line and its insistence on using Predator drones as a weapon against terrorists. At the same time, though, he acknowledged that Congress can be "parochial" and get things wrong. And he told Politico he was open to "any solution" that would stave off the steep budget cuts under sequestration. He said he wasn't advocating a tax increase, but acknowledged that higher revenues were going to be part of any conversation with President Obama.

Thornberry has often been at the forefront of security issues. In 2002, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he played a key role in the establishment of the new Homeland Security Department. In January 2011, he took over as chairman of the Armed Services’ terrorism panel, and Speaker John Boehner also asked him to lead an effort to develop a cyber security strategy for the country. The House in 2012 passed a series of bills based on his task force’s recommendations that were in keeping with his desire to take up issues in “bite-sized chunks” rather than in a single sweeping measure. But partisan disagreements stalled action in the Senate. Earlier, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, Thornberry criticized delays in integrating computer networks and intelligence analyses at Homeland Security. He also has championed missile defense and called for better coordination of military space programs.

Thornberry’s district includes the Pantex Plant, the nation’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. He sought in the 113th Congress (2013-14) to improve operations at the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which has drawn bipartisan criticism for its safety and security policies. He was critical of Obama’s arms control deal with Russia in 2010 for precluding the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations. He also was critical of the amount of input that the administration gave Congress about the use of unmanned drone aircraft to attack suspected terrorists and added language to the defense authorization bill in 2013 to require that lawmakers be promptly notified of sensitive military operations outside of Afghanistan, including drone strikes.

Despite his expertise on security matters, he lost his bid in 2009 to chair the full Armed Services Committee to Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who had more seniority. But he and McKeon developed a good working relationship, and the chairman named Thornberry in October 2013 to lead a long-term effort to reform the Pentagon's acquisition programs. Thornberry told Federal Computer Week that he wanted to seek to change the underlying principles of acquisition instead of merely trying to eliminate wasteful programs. "I think the key is looking … to the incentives that exist in the system, both on the side of government and on the side of industry," he said. "So there's no new oversight office, no new regulation, no elimination of regulation, that's really going to get at the heart of the matter if the incentives for the program manager or for industry are going to stay the way they are."

Even before McKeon officially announced his retirement, he made it known that he wanted Thornberry to be his successor. Thornberry elevated his public profile to some degree, giving a May 2014 Heritage Foundation speech that amounted to a GOP rebuttal of Obama's address on foreign policy at West Point. He accused the president of believing he could influence security simply by “giving a speech” and that when it came to achieving U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, "his heart just isn't in it." He later called for the administration to take a tougher approach against the Islamic State terrorist organization, telling Fox News in August: "The president is going to have to reassure other countries, including the Iraqis, that if we get into this, we're in it to stay; we're not going to cut and run like we have before."

On domestic issues, Thornberry has pressed for repeal of the estate tax and adoption of a national sales tax. In 2010, he got a bill into law expanding access to state veterans’ homes for parents whose children died while serving in the military. He introduced a bill in January 2011 to help states set up special health care courts staffed by judges with health policy expertise. The judges would serve as an alternative to juries that Republicans say are inclined to award unnecessarily large damage amounts in malpractice cases. Another bill of his in 2013 would set up a two-year budget cycle, an idea that outside government reform groups long have said would make the budget process run far more smoothly.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3706

(202) 225-3486

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2208
Washington, DC 20515-4313

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3706

(202) 225-3486

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2208
Washington, DC 20515-4313

DISTRICT OFFICE

(806) 371-8844

(806) 371-7044

620 South Taylor Street Suite 200
Amarillo, TX 79101-3541

DISTRICT OFFICE

(806) 371-8844

(806) 371-7044

620 South Taylor Street Suite 200
Amarillo, TX 79101

DISTRICT OFFICE

(940) 692-1700

(940) 692-0539

2525 Kell Boulevard Suite 406
Wichita Falls, TX 76308-1061

DISTRICT OFFICE

(940) 692-1700

(940) 692-0539

2525 Kell Boulevard Suite 406
Wichita Falls, TX 76308-2829

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(806) 371-8183

4300 County Road 7A
Clarendon, TX 79226-4430

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

4300 County Road 7A
Clarendon, TX 79226-4430

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Miles Miller
Army Fellow

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Miles Miller
Army Fellow

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Miles Miller
Army Fellow

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Michael Seeds
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Nicole Bender
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Alexandra Igleheart
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Nicole Bender
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Alexandra Igleheart
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Miles Miller
Army Fellow

Women

Alexandra Igleheart
Senior Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Mac Thornberry
Votes: 187,775
Percent: 90.98%
John Deek
Votes: 12,701
Percent: 6.15%
2012 PRIMARY
Mac Thornberry
Votes: 47,051
Percent: 77.53%
Pam Barlow
Votes: 13,637
Percent: 22.47%
2010 GENERAL
Mac Thornberry
Votes: 113,201
Percent: 87.05%
Keith Dyer
Votes: 11,192
Percent: 8.61%
2010 PRIMARY
Mac Thornberry
Votes: 59,070
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Mac Thornberry
Votes: 180,078
Percent: 77.65%
Roger Waun
Votes: 51,841
Percent: 22.35%
2008 PRIMARY
Mac Thornberry
Votes: 56,807
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (87%), 2008 (78%), 2006 (74%), 2004 (92%), 2002 (79%), 2000 (68%), 1998 (68%), 1996 (67%), 1994 (55%)

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