It’s only been a few days since Joe Barton’s nude selfies surfaced on the internet, and at that point, we were discussing his savvy public relations pivot that might just save his political career. “As salacious as a naked photo of a congressman might be, victimhood goes a long way toward earning forgiveness from voters,” I wrote last Friday. Well, as of today, stick a fork into Barton, because he’s done.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported this afternoon that Barton sent several inappropriate messages to Arlington Republican activist Kelly Canon through Facebook. For years, she told the paper, she had discussed politics with Barton on Facebook, but in 2012 and 2013, he made several inappropriate suggestions to her. Canon shared copies with the newspaper, including the following exchanges:
Barton: “wanna tell me what u r wearing or not wearing tonight miss sweet dreams.”
Canon: “LOL! I’m still in my ‘regular’ clothes! Haven’t called it a night yet!!”
And on a separate occasion:
Barton: “so..that means u r wearing a tank top only..and no panties? Right now?”
Canon: “Ok that’s enough. You know my attire! Good night…”
Barton: “answer me miss evasive and then you can aske me if u wish”
Barton was married at the time of the exchange. Canon told the newspaper that she never had a sexual relationship with Barton. She decided to go public, she said, after Barton told the Tarrant County Republican Executive Committee that he was polling his district to see if he could win re-election. “I did two days of soul searching,” she told the Star-Telegram. “He actually thinks he can win” re-election. “I thought maybe if I come forward maybe others will come forward too … Someone has to step up. This is a pattern.”
Barton confirmed the text messages for the Star-Telegram, but refused to comment further. So far, our email to his press secretary has not received a response.
On Monday, the Tarrant County GOP leadership had urged Barton to drop his re-election plans. Today, state Senator Konni Burton, whose district overlaps with Barton’s congressional district, urged him to drop out:
“We must hold public officials to a high standard and recent publicized incidents demonstrate those standards were not met. With only weeks left for primary filing, I am asking Joe Barton not to seek re-election so that Tarrant County can move forward in making sure we send a strong conservative to Congress from District 6. Many have discussed Tarrant County Tax Assessor Collector Ron Wright stepping up to run for this position in the event Congressman Barton does not seek reelection. Ron is a man of great character and integrity and I want to make it clear that I am one hundred percent behind him if he decides to do so.”
Barton, 68, has represented the Texas 6th Congressional District since 1985. His resignation would prompt a special election, which might conflict with a Republican primary to pick a nominee to replace him. J.K. “Jake” Ellzey of Midlothian already has filed in the Republican primary against Barton. Democrat Ruby Faye Woolridge of Arlington also has filed, but the district is so tilted toward Republicans that she is a long-shot candidate.