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TYLER, Texas—While most campaigns across the state deal with an establishment lawmaker trying to fend off a challenger, the campaign between State Rep. Matt Schaefer and Ted Kamel features the exact opposite.
The chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, Schaefer is one of the most conservative lawmakers in the Texas Legislature and has a record to prove it. Now in his third term, the City of Tyler’s state representative has emerged as one of the strongest leaders on the floor of the Texas House.
On multiple occasions during the 85th Texas Legislature’s regular and special sessions, Schaefer and other conservative lawmakers wrested control of the chamber. Indeed, it’s largely due to Schaefer’s efforts that many candidates campaigning around the state are able to draw contrast with their incumbent opposition.
Because House Speaker Joe Straus largely prevented bills authored by conservatives from coming to the floor, most conservative efforts centered around amendments and Schaefer had one of the most prolific efforts of offering and forcing debates on them.
No better example is Schaefer’s amendments to strengthen the ban on sanctuary cities.
Schaefer’s amendment was Amendment number 9 on Senate Bill 4 (Record 415), which successfully restored the stronger provisions into the sanctuary city bill after they had been gutted by State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) to appease Texas House Democrats. The vote largely came down to a test of which legislators would remain loyal to the liberal leadership and which ones would vote with their constituents.
Ultimately, 81 Republicans in the Texas House voted with Schaefer. Only nine Republicans voted against strengthening the provisions against sanctuary cities.
But despite Schaefer’s positive record in the Texas Legislature he’s drawn a primary challenge from former State Rep. Ted Kamel who served in the Texas House from 1991-1999. While Kamel is a Republican, during his legislative career he was known for working closely with liberal Democrats.
Despite previously serving in office, Kamel has struggled to gain traction in the district with voters and with donors—something Schaefer’s been very successful with.
“I’m proud of my record and I’m appreciative to have so much support from the conservative constituents that I represent,” said Schaefer.
More from Schaefer can be seen in our Facebook Live interview with him at the Grassroots America We the People rally here.
This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.
Zach Maxwell contributed to this report.