A group of conservative lawmakers say they could soon be expelled by the Texas House Republican Caucus for endorsing challengers to incumbents in the recent primary election.

Called the “Incumbent Protection Program,” the Texas House Republican Caucus prohibits members from endorsing against incumbents and has threatened to censure members who have done so in the past.

This cycle, however, conservative incumbent State Reps. Brian Harrison, Nate Schatzline, Steve Toth, and Tony Tinderholt joined statewide Republicans like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in endorsing against liberal Republicans in an election cycle that saw the defeat of 14 incumbent Republicans. 

While outgoing State Rep. Glenn Rogers filed the original complaint against the members, an inside source told Texas Scorecard that State Reps. Cole Hefner and Jared Patterson, aligned with Speaker Dade Phelan, are behind the efforts. Neither Hefner nor Patterson would confirm or deny the allegations as of publication.

Harrison called it an “attempt to dispense with whatever shreds of credibility the caucus had left.”

“Without substantive reforms, the caucus should probably just be disbanded,” said Harrison, adding that during his tenure in the House, it had become “the muscle for the liberal speaker’s team.”

“It’ll be interesting to see what members of the caucus vocally speak out in opposition of this because what we’re seeing happening here is the caucus take more aggressive action against some of the most vocal, prominent, bold conservatives in the House than they did against the Democrats who broke quorum to protect the ability to cheat in elections. It’s outrageous,” he added.

Toth agreed, saying his membership in the caucus doesn’t supersede his right to free speech. 

“I don’t care what silly rules you want to put in place. The reality is that you have a moral obligation to follow your moral compass,” said Toth. “And when you stop doing that, you develop a seared conscience. And that’s the problem with that building, it encourages people very quickly to violate their conscience.”

“The vast majority of the people in that building, they don’t know what they believe,” he added.

If the motion to expel the members comes to fruition, members will hold a vote digitally. A previous effort in 2022 to expel three lawmakers on similar grounds failed.

State Rep. Tom Oliverson, the chair of the House Republican Caucus, confirmed that a report had been made but noted that there are several steps before an expulsion vote would be held:

Last week, a report was made to the Caucus Executive Committee that certain members had violated Sections 7.09 and/or 7.10 (Financial Support During Elections and Campaigning) of our Caucus bylaws. Pursuant to the process laid out in the bylaws, the Executive Committee is obligated to conduct an investigation into the accusations and a report to the Caucus membership of our findings is currently being drafted. Upon the completion of our investigation and the determination of a proposed action, the full Caucus membership will vote on whether the proposed action is executed. As the Executive Committee, we will fulfill our duties to complete this process but no decisions have been reached at this time.

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