Texas House expels Bryan Slaton, first member ousted since 1927
The unanimous vote followed an investigation that determined the Royse City Republican had an inappropriate sexual relationship with an aide.
Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
The Texas House unanimously voted to expel Bryan Slaton on Tuesday, one day after the Royse City Republican submitted his resignation after an internal investigation determined that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with an aide.
Upon a 147-0 vote after a solemn, sometimes angry and at times tearful recounting of Slaton’s inappropriate relationship with a 19-year-old aide, Slaton became the first member of the Texas Legislature to be cast out of office since 1927.
Support of two-thirds of the House was needed for expulsion.
Slaton’s nameplate was immediately removed from his desk and from the vote tally board at the front of the House chamber.
Slaton’s expulsion followed more than a month of scandal over allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a 19-year-old aide from his Capitol office. On Saturday, the House General Investigating Committee released a 16-page report that found that Slaton, 45, had furnished the young woman with alcohol before the April 1 encounter.
Ahead of the vote, members of the committee briefly outlined the “unpleasant” and “graphic” allegations and noted that Slaton had not disputed them, but still had yet to express remorse or regret. They also said Slaton likely committed multiple crimes, including providing alcohol to a minor.
“This Texas House is not going to hear from multiple complainants about serious and alarming facts and then turn the other cheek or simply slap a member on the wrist,” Rep. Andrew Murr, a Junction Republican who leads the investigating committee, told the House.
In a heartfelt speech, Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, said Slaton had exhibited a “systematic pattern of manipulation” and questioned whether the aide was able to consent at the time of the encounter after Slaton supplied her with several large mixed drinks. And she excoriated Slaton, calling him the “type of man who steals innocence” and was “not worthy of a position of trust.”
Although Slaton resigned Monday, unless he was expelled he was entitled to his House salary and per diem, continued to sit on assigned committees and was counted toward establishing a working quorum of the House until voters elect a replacement, Murr said.
Slaton, a prominent anti-LGBTQ lawmaker who has described drag performers as “perverted adults,” allegedly invited the woman to his Austin apartment and gave her a large cup of rum and coke, then refilled it twice. The committee said she was rendered unable to “effectively consent to intercourse and could not indicate whether it was welcome or unwelcome.”
The bipartisan committee also said Slaton tried to obstruct their investigation, and recommended his expulsion.
Slaton, a married 45-year-old who portrayed himself as a “family values” conservative, submitted his written resignation to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday. In the letter, Slaton said he planned to spend more time with his family but did not address the inappropriate relationship.
Earlier Tuesday, Murr distributed a memorandum to House members that outlined why expulsion was appropriate despite Slaton’s resignation. The memo said the House had a duty to proceed with the vote because Slaton would otherwise be considered a “holdover” member who “still receives benefits of office, until a successor is qualified.”
“Accordingly, expulsion is the only method to immediately end a member’s service in the Legislature,” the memo said.
Abbott must call a special election to fill the vacancy for House District 2, but that election cannot happen before the legislative session ends on Memorial Day.
Slaton was previously a youth pastor at several Southern Baptist churches and ran for the Texas House in 2021 on a family-values campaign that was financed heavily by Defend Texas Liberty PAC, which is mostly funded by ultra-right West Texas oil and gas tycoons. In the House, he gained a reputation as an anti-LGBTQ bomb-thrower who was unafraid to needle those in his own party from the right.
Last year, Slaton called for a blanket ban on minors at drag shows, saying they needed to be protected from “perverted adults,” and proposed giving per-child tax credits to married, heterosexual couples — while excluding LGBTQ or divorced people. Slaton, who is divorced, also called this year for a referendum on Texas’ secession from the United States, despite legal experts overwhelmingly saying such a move would be illegal.
Calls for Slaton’s resignation had grown since the report’s release Saturday. Over the weekend, two of the three Republican parties for the counties he represents asked him to step down, and more than half of the 62-member State Republican Executive Committee had done the same by Sunday night.
Other Slaton allies also abandoned him, including Texas Right to Life, the anti-abortion group that revoked its endorsement, saying it was a “Christian organization” that held its staff, board members, scholarship recipients and political endorsees to high moral standards. The Young Conservatives of Texas also called for Slaton’s resignation.
Tickets are on sale now for the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, happening in downtown Austin on Sept. 21-23. Get your TribFest tickets by May 31 and save big!
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/05/09/bryan-slaton-expel-house-vote/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
Copyright 2023 KBTX. All rights reserved.