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Four Texas House Republicans censured by GOP caucus

The infighting between Lone Star State Republicans continues to intensify.

Four Republican members of the Texas House who campaigned against their colleagues were censured by the chamber’s GOP caucus on Monday evening.

In a letter addressed to each of the four members — state Reps. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian), Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), and Nate Schatzline (R-Fort Worth) — the Texas House Republican Caucus executive committee issued a “strong condemnation.”

“While we have been asked to ignore or refuse to complete an investigation or determine a curative action, our bylaws compel us to address these violations,” the letter reads. “These sections of the bylaws were adopted in 2019 as a method of eliminating discord and promoting solidarity.”

“You may wish to disregard them, but it is our responsibility as officers to carry them out to the best of our abilities and enforce them when necessary. There were certainly punishments that would have been more severe and, while we believe your actions warrant those, we recognize it is in the best interest of the Caucus to come together and move past your efforts to divide us.”

The four members campaigned against multiple of their colleagues, particularly Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and state Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) — the latter of whom filed the complaint with the caucus last week.

The four members issued a joint statement following the censure that said, in part, “We are proud to have helped many true conservatives join the Texas House; something we will continue to do, regardless of any absurd caucus rules designed to protect the uniparty swamp. At a time when Republicans should be unifying against Democrats, the Caucus is divisively punishing conservatives.”

The quartet’s campaigning was part of the “Contract with Texas” tour, a list of demanded reforms to the Texas House going into next session.

The executive committee — comprising of Chair Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), Vice Chair Lacey Hull (R-Houston), Treasurer Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville), Secretary Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond), and Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) — conducted an investigation, finding the four had violated one section of the caucus bylaws that prohibits campaigning and spending against fellow incumbents.

“As part of the investigation, you were afforded the opportunity to make a statement regarding the alleged violation and you responded that you knowingly and unapologetically violated the bylaws to which you are subject as a Caucus member,” the letter added.

Both Oliverson and Slawson are challenging Phelan for the speakership.

Any further punishment — whether a fine, suspension, or expulsion — would’ve required a two-thirds vote by the full caucus body. No such vote occurred and the letter indicates no intention of bringing one up.

The rule in question was established in the bylaws back in 2019 after then-state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) had campaigned against a colleague. State Rep. John Raney (R-College Station) proposed amending the rules to forbid that, and a working group fashioned the final language.

That working group included seven members with an ideological mix among them, including Tinderholt.

Another one of those working group members, state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), stated on social media of it, "The committee was intentionally created with what were then 3 Freedom Caucus members (and people who were mad at us for “public” actions in the primaries). It was supposed to be an attempt to stop the civil war."

"The rule has become useless and should be repealed. There are lot of members yelling about Tinderholt, but who are violating the rule by directing or influencing 3rd parties to campaign against incumbents."

This outcome is similar to the previous censures issued by the caucus in 2022 for the same offense; Toth was also among that group.

The caucus membership resets after the November election when the 2025 House membership is finalized. Even had the members been expelled, they would have been reinstated after the general election — provided they’ve paid their dues — in time for the December meeting at which the body will choose its endorsed speaker candidate.

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