Despite the completion of the primary and runoff elections—where protected incumbents retained their nominations amid grassroots challenges—the Texas House GOP Caucus is seeking to censure three Republican state representatives for supporting grassroots challengers over incumbents.
“This whole issue is about the Incumbent Protection Program. If you dare exercise your First Amendment right to oppose Republican members who oppose conservative policies, they will ‘censure’ you,” said State Rep. Jeff Cason (R–Bedford).
According to an investigative report obtained by The Texan, the Executive Committee of the Texas House Republican Caucus is recommending that Cason and State Reps. Ben Leman (R–Anderson) and Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) be censured for opposing fellow incumbent legislators.
“The Republican Caucus leadership has decided you can cheat on your spouse, break quorum, refuse to hear GOP legislation, and create lists of Republican members to target for defeating in their re-election. But as long as you are doing this in conjunction with leadership or you’re a Democrat, there will be no consequences,” said Cason.
The caucus’ executive committee—comprised of Chairman Jim Murphy (R–Houston), Vice Chair Tom Oliverson (R–Cypress), Treasurer Craig Goldman (R–Fort Worth), and Secretary Candy Noble (R–Lucas)—-determined that Cason, Leman, and Toth violated sections 7.09 and/or 7.10 of the caucus bylaws by financially supporting or endorsing a grassroots challenger.
Cason donated $2,000 to Mike Olcott, who challenged incumbent Rep. Glenn Rogers (R–Mineral Wells). Rogers angered the grassroots after earning a rating of 45 from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and a rating of 55 from Young Conservatives of Texas in his inaugural legislative session. Notably, Cason also donated to the challengers of Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth), Lynn Stucky (R–Sanger), and Reggie Smith (R–Van Alstyne)
Meanwhile, Leman endorsed, campaigned for, and donated to Ben Bius, who challenged incumbent legislator Kyle Kacal (R–Huntsville), widely considered one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House.
Toth also endorsed Ben Bius against Kacal.
The executive committee is recommending that Cason, Leman, and Toth be censured and expelled from the caucus for the remainder of the 87th Legislature. The House GOP Caucus—which includes all Republicans in the Texas House—will vote on the issue this Friday.
State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) has already condemned the executive committee’s decision and announced his intention to vote against the proposed censure:
I find it incredibly disappointing and wrong that while Texas Democrats were holding their state convention and strategizing on how to defeat us in November, the leadership of the House Republican Caucus was working to punish its own members for working to advance conservative policies and candidates in the primary.
“This foolish and bitter act threatens to divide Republicans at a time when we should be uniting to defeat the Democrats in November so we can pass our party’s legislative priorities into law,” Slaton added.
Of the three members under scrutiny, only Toth is up for re-election in November. Cason’s district was redrawn to heavily favor Democrats during the redistricting process, and Leman chose not to run for re-election.
“We have a duty to our constituents that supersedes any caucus, and that includes keeping them informed of our recommendations,” Cason said. “We don’t take an oath on the House floor to defend the caucus; our oath is to uphold and defend the Constitution. That includes the right of free speech.”