The Texas House voted unanimously to eject Bryan Slaton on Tuesday, a day after the Royse City Republican tendered his resignation after an internal investigation found he had sex with a 19-year-old aide after got her drunk.
After a solemn, sometimes angry and tearful account of Slaton’s “graphic” and “insulting” behavior, the House voted 147-0 by ejection, making Slaton the first member of the Texas Legislature to be removed from office since 1927.
The support of two-thirds of the House was needed for the expulsion.
Slaton’s nameplate was immediately removed from his desk and the vote count board at the front of the House floor.
Slaton’s ouster followed a nearly month-long scrutiny by the House General Investigative Committee after it received complaints about Slaton’s behavior from three Capitol employees and four representatives. On Saturday, the committee released a 16-page report detailing the actions taken by Slaton, 45, in supplying the young woman with large quantities of alcohol before the April 1 meeting and recommending that Slaton be expelled from the House.
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Before the vote, committee members told the House that Slaton had not contested the allegations and had not yet expressed remorse or regret. They also said that Slaton likely committed multiple crimes, including providing alcohol to a minor.
“This Texas House will no longer hear complainants about serious and alarming facts and then turn the other cheek or just slap a member on the wrist,” Rep. Andrew Murr, a Junction Republican who leads the investigative committee, told the House. .
“My heart breaks,” Murr said, his voice getting heavier. “I suspect yours does too.”
In a heartfelt speech, Rep. Ann Johnson D-Houston said Slaton had displayed a “systematic pattern of manipulation” and questioned whether the aide was able to consent at the time of the meeting after Slaton told her provided several large mixed drinks. And she criticized Slaton, calling him the “kind of man who steals innocence” and who “wasn’t worthy of a position of trust.”
Aside from the three Republicans and two Democrats on the investigating committee who presented their findings and condemned Slaton’s actions, no other House members spoke before Speaker Dade Phelan called for a vote on House Resolution 1542. After the vote, Phelan, who had declined to comment on the matter as the investigation continued, said expulsion was a rare but necessary action.
“Predatory behavior deserves such a consequence,” Phelan said. “I hope the action we’ve taken here today sends a message that sexual harassment and inappropriate activity in the workplace will not be condoned and is unacceptable.”
Although Slaton resigned on Monday, he was entitled to a House salary and per diem unless he is ejected, Murr said. Until voters elect a replacement, Slaton would also continue to sit on assigned committees and count to establish a House working quorum.
Slaton, a prominent anti-LGBTQ lawmaker who has described drag performers as “adult perverts,” allegedly invited the woman to his Austin apartment and gave her a large cup of rum and coke, then filled it twice. The committee said she was unable to “actually consent to the report and could not indicate whether she liked or disliked it”.
The bipartisan committee also said Slaton tried to obstruct their investigation, including with what they described as scare tactics against the aide and other witnesses. Five of Slaton’s staffers also declined to be interviewed by the committee.
Slaton, a married father who has described himself as a conservative of “family values,” submitted his written resignation to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday. In the letter, Slaton said he intended to spend more time with his family, but did not address his inappropriate behavior.
On Tuesday, Murr distributed a memorandum to House members outlining why the expulsion was appropriate despite Slaton’s resignation. The memo stated that the House had a duty to proceed with the vote because Slaton would otherwise be considered a “remaining” member who “still receives the benefits of office, until a successor qualifies.”
“Consequently, expulsion is the only method of immediately terminating 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 occur before the end of the legislative session on Memorial Day.
Slaton was previously a youth pastor at several Southern Baptist churches and in 2021 ran for Texas House in a family values campaign that was heavily funded by Defend Texas Liberty PAC, which is mostly funded by oil tycoons and right-wing West Texas gas company. In the House, he earned a reputation as an anti-LGBTQ bomb-thrower who wasn’t afraid to poke 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 and heterosexual couples, excluding LGBTQ or divorced people. Slaton, who is previously divorced, also called a referendum this year on Texas’s secession from the United States, despite legal experts overwhelmingly saying such a move would be illegal.
Calls for Slaton’s resignation had increased since the release of the report on Saturday. Over the weekend, two of the three county Republican parties he represents called for him to resign, and more than half of the 62 state Republican Executive Committee members had done the same Sunday night.
Other allies of Slaton have also deserted him, including Texas Right to Life, the anti-abortion group that rescinded its endorsement, saying it was a “Christian organization” that kept its staff, board members, beneficiaries of scholarship and political supporters to high moral standards. Conservative youth in Texas have also called for Slaton’s resignation.
For more information, go to the Texas Tribune