There’s been an unwritten rule in the Texas House for a long time: incumbent members should never campaign against other incumbents.

Known by some as the “Incumbent Protection Program,” the “tradition” was so pervasive a few years ago, that the Texas House Republican Caucus actually enshrined the prohibition in their rules and has threatened to censure members who dare to violate it.

And so when I say it is remarkable that a group of incumbent and incoming legislators hit the road for three days to travel 1,000 miles around the state exposing their colleagues for cozying up to liberal leadership and killing conservative priorities, I mean it.

This is far from business as usual. This hasn’t been done before.

The Silver Bullet Tour, hosted by Gun Owners of America, started last Wednesday in Burleson with a campaign rally for Helen Kerwin, who is challenging State Rep. DeWayne Burns.

It wound through the metroplex, making stops for David Lowe (who is challenging State Rep. Stephanie Klick), Andy Hopper (who is challenging State Rep. Lynn Stucky), and Katrina Pierson (who is challenging State Rep. Justin Holland).

Silver Bullet Tour kicks off in Burleson

It wasn’t all smooth sailing.

The group encountered a torrential storm as they traveled to Beaumont.

Author’s Note: No joke, portions of the bus flooded during the height of the storm. The bus tour nearly turned into a boat tour.

But despite the weather and the long distances, the coalition trekked on, taking major shots as they told voters the record of the incumbents.

At a stop in Denton for Andy Hopper, State Rep. Brian Harrison rebuked the notion that those members seeking to pass the legislative priorities of the Republican Party of Texas were extreme.

“The only extremism in the Texas House comes from our liberal drunk Speaker Dade Phelan,” Harrison told the crowd at Robson Ranch to raucous applause.

Incumbents ignoring the grassroots was a common theme among all who joined the tour.

Mike Olcott campaigns for Katrina Pierson

At a fireworks store in Rockwall, Mike Olcott—who beat incumbent State Rep. Glenn Rogers in March—relayed comments made by State Rep. Justin Holland disparaging the party.

“He mocked the Republican Party of Texas and he has ignored our priorities,” said Olcott.

That’s a message Republican voters took to heart in March when they voted out a dozen incumbents. Challengers hope that sentiment has only grown stronger, if voters will turn out for the runoffs.

Someone who knows a lot of the importance of voter turnout is Brent Money, who in several months was on the ballot three times: once for a special election, another for a special election runoff, and finally for the Republican primary in March. 

“Everybody thinks about the big elections, but these are the elections where your vote has more voice than it does even in a presidential election,” Money told Texas Scorecard. “These are the people who represent you from your hometown, who you can meet at the grocery store, in Sunday school, who you can talk to about the issues, and they’re the people that you can actually hold accountable to do what they said that they would do.”

He encouraged everyone to “not just get out and vote, but get out and get your friends to go vote.”

During the tour, Wes Virdell wore two hats: a literal GOA cap, as he currently serves as the group’s State Director, and a metaphorical hat, as an incoming lawmaker himself.

He drove Money’s point about voter turnout home at every stop. From Burleson to Beaumont, Virdell repeatedly reminded voters, “Government is controlled by the people who show up.”

Mitch Little, who defeated incumbent State Rep. Kronda Thimesch in what was considered perhaps the biggest upset in the March primary, described the current political movement as a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

“We have an opportunity here. It doesn’t come along that often. It’s the first time in my lifetime when we’ve had an opportunity to shift the balance in the Texas House toward the things that Republican voters want,” Little told Texas Scorecard. 

“School choice, lower property taxes, smaller government, we have a chance, the time is now, and there’s never going to be a better time than this,” he added.

Tony Tinderholt campaigns for Andy Hopper

The most-watched race on election night will undoubtedly be the matchup of David Covey against current Speaker Dade Phelan in southeast Texas. Phelan came in second place during the March election, a precarious position for any incumbent, let alone the Speaker of the House. 

Removing a sitting speaker from his district would expedite the already rapidly shifting tides in Austin.

“If we are able to get rid of this speaker, we can change how business is done in the Texas House,” said Covey.

A campaign stop for David Covey at Freedom Firearms in Beaumont

To that end, every member involved in the 3-day tour is a signatory to the Contract With Texas—a set of 12 proposed reforms that a coalition of lawmakers say the next Speaker of the House needs to implement to earn their support, such as ending Democrat chairmanships and addressing Republican priorities earlier in the session.

State Reps. Nate Schatzline, Tony Tinderholt, and Steve Toth as well as incoming member Shelley Luther also made appearances at some of the tour stops, as did Lt. Col. Allen West—the former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and the incoming chairman of the Dallas County GOP.

The final stop of the tour was reserved for Alan Schoolcraft in Seguin. Schoolcraft is challening State Rep. John Kuempel.

It wasn’t just those challenging incumbents that got attention. 

The bus also stopped for Cheryl Bean, who is in an open seat race in Fort Worth, as well as AJ Louderback, in Victoria.

Early voting begins today and continues through Friday, May 24. Election day is Tuesday, May 28.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens