Following my Sept. 4 announcement that I would not be running for another term in Congress, the Waco Tribune-Herald published an editorial setting forth their opinions why the next congressional representative for the 17th District of Texas should come from Waco. That op-ed omitted the significant resources that my office has invested in the representation of McLennan County and it omitted the significant positive impact that our representation has had on McLennan County and the surrounding areas. Those are unfortunate omissions. Furthermore, there has been a recent series of “interesting,” misleading and one-sided op-eds on these pages by folks like Blake Burleson and the WTH editors.

In future weeks, I will write to set the record straight on those issues. In the meantime, I write about a much larger issue: Who should we elect to represent us in Congress beginning in 2021? The announcement last week by a former congressman that he will move from his current area and drop into the 17th District of Texas should give us all something to think about: Where should our next representative come from? In the days since my announcement, the Tribune-Herald has published its editorial about the need for a Waco person to serve in this role. Many persons from other areas of the district have opined to others and me that the next representative needs to be from their respective areas.

I want to push back on those narratives by stating what is obvious: The next congressman/congresswoman for TX-17 should come from . . . TX-17. We must seek out and find the person who will represent all areas of this wonderful district equitably, effectively and passionately. If we get involved in “geographic” battles to try and pit one area versus other areas, we essentially say there will be winners and losers. I think this is wrong. It runs counter to the way my office strives to treat all areas equally. After all, the U.S. representative for TX-17 will be elected by voters from all over the district; therefore, they should represent all of the district without regard to geography.

On Sept. 30, we held two workshops in TX-17 for prospective Republican candidates who are interested in running for Congress from this district. In these workshops we discussed various sections of TX-17 and the need to represent all areas equally. We also discussed the pitfalls of trying to use a geographic attribute, e.g., “I am the Waco candidate. . .” as part of a campaign strategy because of the negative impact it will have on voter preferences in the other parts of the district.

One of the biggest takeaways that I observed from the workshops is that TX-17 is blessed with a strong cadre of emerging leaders, including women and persons of color, who live, work, raise families and serve in the communities in our district. Some of these leaders will be world-class congressional candidates for whom I will be honored to vote and to have represent all of our district and me in Congress.

This brings me to my final point. The announcement that former Congressman Pete Sessions from another district is going to run in TX-17 should alarm all. Like you, I find it unacceptable that someone from outside TX-17 would attempt to drop in and try to elbow his way to the front of the line ahead of our local leaders. We have great leaders currently living, working, raising families and serving our communities. I hope you share my views that one of these individuals should be the next congressman or congresswoman from TX-17. I intend to help, support and vote for these types of local persons during the 2020 election cycle and I hope you will consider doing so also.

One person who has announced he is running for Congress from TX-17 summed it up perfectly: “With all due respect Mr. Sessions, we got this.” While I am not endorsing this candidate at this time, I couldn’t agree more. TX-17 has talent. Let’s support them!

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Bill Flores has been the U.S. representative for Texas’ 17th congressional district since 2011. The Central Texas district includes Waco, College Station and Bryan. A ninth-generation Texan raised in a small town in the Texas Panhandle, Flores serves on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Committee on the Budget.

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