In the race for an open Texas Hosue seat in Central Texas, the issue of giving leadership positions to Democrats singled out one candidate from the rest at a recent forum.

House District 17,  which consists of Bastrop, Caldwell, Lee, Milam, and Burleson counties, is currently represented by State Rep. John Cyrier (R–Lockhart), who announced he was not seeking re-election in mid-November. That has led to an open race between five Republican candidates vying for the nomination in the safely red seat.

At a candidate forum hosted by the Lost Pines Republican Women in Bastrop, the four candidates present were asked if they would support Democrats being made committee chairs in the Texas House, a longstanding practice that has repeatedly thwarted conservative priorities in recent history. 

Three candidates said they would not vote to allow Democrats to chair committees. One candidate, however, left the possibility open.

Trey Rutledge was among those who said they would not.

“I know a lot of people believe that they should. But a lot of these key committee leaders are shooting down conservative priorities. That means the majority of Texans want something to happen. And because these people are in leadership positions, they shoot down those priorities. We blame these RINOs and everything in the House and the Senate, but a lot of it is because they’re allowing these Democrats to be in positions of power,” said Rutledge. “Most Texans vote for Republicans to be in power, and I believe that’s who should make the decisions in our state.”

Rutledge was joined by Tom Glass, who also said he would vote against allowing Democrats to chair committees, saying,  “I’m running to change the culture of the Texas House to be less beholden to the Democrats, less beholden to the special interests, and more beholden to the principles, priorities, and platform of the Republican Party of Texas, as well as us here in the district. “

Jennifer Bezner, who was also opposed to the idea, shared her personal experience with Democrats in leadership blocking conservative priorities.

“One of the reasons I’m running is an issue near and dear to my heart … the fact that they’re trying to put boys in women’s sports. Well, I spent hours and hours and hours on the phone and email to my state legislator to find out why that’s not being taken care of in the state of Texas—because the bill went through the education committee, which was chaired by a Democrat.”

Bezner added, “Fifty percent of our total budget in the state of Texas is on education. It was chaired by a Democrat. That makes no sense to me.”

Stan Gerdes, a former staffer to Gov. Rick Perry, was the only candidate who would not commit to ending the practice, saying he didn’t want to make Austin like the nation’s Capitol.

“I’ve been to D.C. I’ve seen how broken our Congress is. And so, you know, I’m hesitant to sign on to anything that makes us, you know, more broken. And so, you know, if elected and I get there, then I can take a look and work with our friends and see what we can make work best for the folks in Texas,” said Gerdes.

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape, who is also a candidate in the race, was not present.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi has repeatedly called for ending the practice of giving leadership positions to Democrats, especially after they fled for Washington D.C. last summer to halt progress on election integrity legislation, saying he has “never seen an issue that so firmly unites Republicans across the political spectrum as this one does.”

Republican primary voters will also be asked if they support ending the practice on a referendum question on the statewide ballot.

Early voting begins on February 14. Election Day is March 1.

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

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