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State Rep. Bryan Slaton resigns ahead of expulsion vote over inappropriate relationship with aide

By James Barragán, The Texas Tribune

State Rep. Bryan Slaton resigns ahead of expulsion vote over inappropriate relationship with aide” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Rep. Bryan Slaton resigned from the Texas House on Monday after an investigation determined that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 19-year-old woman on his staff, providing her with enough alcohol before their encounter that she felt dizzy and had double vision.

Pressure had mounted on the Royse City Republican to resign since Saturday, when the House General Investigative Committee released a 16-page report finding Slaton, who is 45 and married, had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with his aide. The committee of three Republicans and two Democrats recommended that Slaton be the first state representative expelled from the body since 1927.

Slaton’s resignation, however, may not stop a planned Tuesday vote on a House resolution expelling him from office.

Rep. Andrew Murr, a Junction Republican who leads the investigative committee, said Monday that he still plans to call up the resolution that he drafted and filed on Saturday.

“Though Representative Slaton has submitted his resignation from office, under Texas law he is considered to be an officer of this state until a successor is elected and takes the oath of office to represent Texas House District 2,” Murr wrote on Facebook.

Slaton did not address the inappropriate relationship that led to his downfall in his resignation letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, saying instead that he looked forward to spending more time with his young family. He was not on the House floor Monday.

State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, blasted Slaton for not apologizing in the letter, calling it “inconceivable.”

“His resignation gave no apology to the young woman he violated, his wife whom he betrayed or his district that he failed,” Toth said on social media. “No remorse. No acceptance of responsibility. He’s the victim that rides off in to the sunset. That was the resignation of a narcissist.”

In a statement, Republican Party of Texas Chair Matt Rinaldi commended the House for responding swiftly to “the reprehensible actions of Representative Slaton,” which were first reported in early April. He said the misconduct detailed in the report “should never be tolerated and is proper grounds for expulsion.”

“These actions have betrayed the trust that the people of Representative Slaton’s district put in him as an elected official, and he has rightly resigned,” Rinaldi said. “We are encouraged that this investigation signals that the House has entered a new era of accountability where all members will be held to the same fair and high standards.”

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.

By Monday, even some of Slaton’s closest supporters had left his side. Texas Right to Life, a staunchly anti-abortion group that was a key supporter of Slaton’s political campaigns, revoked its endorsement in the morning, saying it was a “Christian organization” that held its staff, board members, scholarship recipients and political endorsees to high moral standards.

“In light of recent reports and the findings of the Texas House General Investigating Committee, Texas Right to Life PAC has decided to formally revoke our endorsement of Representative Bryan Slaton and is praying for a biblical response for all those involved,” Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokesperson for the group, wrote in a statement.

Slaton was among the most socially conservative lawmakers in the chamber and had been one of this session’s loudest voices for cracking down on drag shows and decrying drag artists as “groomers” who want to sexualize kids.

The committee report said Slaton had invited the 19-year-old woman to his Austin apartment late March 31 and gave her a large cup of rum and coke, then refilled it twice — rendering her unable to “effectively consent to intercourse and could not indicate whether it was welcome or unwelcome.”

In other questionable actions, Slaton also provided alcohol to the aide and another woman under the age of 21 on several occasions, the report said.

The report also alleged that after Slaton and the woman had unprotected sex in the early hours of April 1, Slaton drove her home, and she later went to a drugstore to purchase Plan B medication to prevent a pregnancy. Slaton, a staunch abortion opponent, later tried to intimidate the woman and her friends into not speaking about the incident, the report said.

On Sunday, the Texas House Freedom Caucus, a group that includes some of the most socially conservative lawmakers in the chamber who are usually politically aligned with Slaton, also called for his resignation.

“The abhorrent behavior described in the report requires clear and strong action,” the caucus said in a statement. “He should resign. If he does not, we will vote to expel him Tuesday.”

Later that night, 36 members of the 62–member State Republican Executive Committee, party activists who help set the agenda for the party, also called for his resignation, calling his conduct “wrong and unacceptable.” They were joined by the party’s vice chair, Dana Myers, and secretary Vergel Cruz. Three more committee members who could not be reached Sunday night added their names to the call for resignation Monday morning.

At least three lawmakers had already called for Slaton’s resignation before the report’s release: Reps. Toth, Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, and Ana-Maria Ramos, D-Richardson. Cain and Toth are members of the Freedom Caucus.

Also on Monday, the Young Conservatives of Texas joined the calls for Slaton to resign and urged the House to follow the committee’s recommendation without hesitation if he did not.

“The Young Conservatives of Texas fully support his expulsion and will score the vote in our legislative ratings,” the group wrote in a statement.

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. That means Slaton’s constituents will be left without representation for the final days of the session.

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