U.S. Rep. Pete Olson announces retirement

Texas Tribune News

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, at the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. 
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, at the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. 
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, announced Friday afternoon that he is retiring from Congress.

The retirement sets up what will likely be one of the most competitive House races in the country. Olson narrowly won re-election last year against Democrat Sri Kulkarni, who is running again.

Olson, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, announced his retirement in a news release.

“Protecting our future and preserving our exceptional nation are the reasons I first ran for Congress,” he wrote. “Now, it’s time for another citizen-legislator to take up this mission, not to make a career out of politics, but to help lead in the cause of empowering our people, defending our liberties, and making sure America remains the greatest nation in history.”

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls announced earlier in the day that he was exploring a primary challenge against Olson, per the Fort Bend Herald.

Olson is a graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas Law School. On the day he took the bar exam, he enlisted in the Navy and served as an aviator during the Gulf War. He went on to serve as a staffer to Republican U.S. Sens. Phil Gramm and John Cornyn.

During his time in Congress, he has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He championed the Keystone XL pipeline and focused much of his attention on NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Hurricane Harvey hit his southwestern suburban Houston district hard. To help draw attention to the Texas delegation’s advocacy for hurricane relief, Olson could be seen around Capitol Hill wearing an Astros jersey over his dress shirt.

Attorney Nyanza Davis Moore and Pearland City Councilman Derrick Reed are also running for the Democratic nomination.

While once a conservative stronghold, the district’s political future is uncertain. Olson won re-election last November by a mere five percentage points. House Democrats made clear early this cycle they plan to mount a fierce challenge against him.

This developing story will be updated.