Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Kyle Biedermann, a former Texas state representative running to unseat a fellow Republican in the March primary, blasted the House for expelling former Rep. Bryan Slaton, who had sex with a 19-year old intern after plying her with alcohol.
“Was he convicted? What was his crime? Is it a crime to have sex with a 19-year-old woman?” Biedermann said in a video captured from a Kendall County Tea Party meeting this week. “In your house, not at the Capitol.”
Slaton, a Royse City Republican who is married, was the first member of the Texas Legislature to be removed from office since 1927. His ouster came after a monthslong internal investigation by the House General Investigating Committee that stemmed from complaints from Capitol employees. Every member of the GOP-dominated House voted to remove him, including House Speaker Dade Phelan, who rarely casts votes.
In a statement, Biedermann said the point he was trying to make was that leaders “selectively punish impropriety.”
“Affairs run rampant in the Austin swamp,” he said, adding that House members who have been accused of extramarital affairs have been “rewarded with powerful committee assignments and close friendships.”
The remarks about Slaton were captured in a video obtained by The Texas Tribune on Thursday, but it does not show Biedermann’s face. Wally Kinney, who attended the meeting and can be heard asking questions, confirmed that Biedermann is the man heard speaking in the video.
Kinney, who is a supporter of Biedermann’s primary opponent Rep. Ellen Troxclair, estimated that 75 people were at the Kendall County Tea Party meeting in Boerne where Biedermann questioned the legal basis for Slaton’s removal and suggested he was targeted for being at odds with those in power.
“If you’re not part of the leadership, like Bryan Slaton, you’re out in 24 hours,” Biedermann said.
Kinney can be heard pushing back on Biedermann’s statements.
“He had sex with an underage person.” Kinney, who is now chair of the Texas State Securities Board, could be heard saying in the video.
“Want me to tell you how many people have done that in the House?” Biedermann interrupts.
Biedermann stressed that it’s not illegal to have sex with someone who is 19 — which is past the age of consent, but beneath the legal age to drink alcohol.
“Let me tell you how many people have done that in the Capitol and nothing happens to them,” he added, without naming names.
Biedermann stressed that Slaton had not been convicted of anything and his actions represent behavior that is pervasive throughout the Capitol with no repercussions for most.
“Unless you’re one of the most conservative reps in the House. Then no trial, no conviction, no nothing. You’re gone in 24 hours,” Biedermann said.
In an interview, Kinney said the remarks may have damaged Biedermann with people who had started the night supporting him.
“Of the 75 or 80 people in that room,“probably 60 of them were real strong far-right Biedermann people,” Kinney, a longtime GOP volunteer and activist, told the Tribune on Thursday. “But what he said there, nobody in their right mind wants you to be defending Slaton.”
Troxclair took aim at Biedermann on social media as an account of the video was making the rounds on Tuesday.
“Disgusting,” Troxclair posted on her X account. “Kyle is PART of the swamp, not fighting it. A charlatan who lies about endorsements, claims credit for the work of others, and defends married men getting interns drunk to sleep with them.”
Biedermann has been known to court controversy. The Fredericksburg hardware store owner was outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, sent letters to Muslim leaders in the state to survey their support for a terrorist group and once dressed up as “gay Hitler” for a costume party that was raising funds for a local food bank.
A photo of the costume — in which Biedermann is doing a Nazi salute — resurfaced during his 2016 run for the Texas House. Biedermann downplayed criticisms of the photo at the time, instead condemning “political correctness.”
He ultimately won his race with key backing from right-wing groups such as Empower Texans and, as a legislator, proposed a bill that would have put a referendum on Texas secession to voters. Slaton, whose political career was also bankrolled by the West Texas oil billionaires behind Empower Texans, proposed a similar bill before his expulsion from the Texas House last year.
In 2021, Biedermann announced that he would not seek reelection, writing that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He launched his challenge to Troxclair last year, and in November was a featured speaker at a conference held by the Texas secessionist movement.
Campaign finance records show that Biedermann’s latest bid has been funded mostly by a $75,000 donation from Texans United for a Conservative Majority, a new political action committee that is funded by Farris Wilks and Tim Dunn, the two West Texas oil billionaires who bankrolled Empower Texans. Dunn and Wilks are also the primary funders of Defend Texas Liberty — a powerful group that has been under fire since October, when its leader met with Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist who has fantasized about marrying a 16-year-old when he is 30.
Biedermann condemned the meeting in a November interview but said reaction to it was overblown and that “there is lots of things that happen in politics that aren’t always kosher.”
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.
We can’t wait to welcome you to downtown Austin Sept. 5-7 for the 2024 Texas Tribune Festival! Join us at Texas’ breakout politics and policy event as we dig into the 2024 elections, state and national politics, the state of democracy, and so much more. When tickets go on sale this spring, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.
Texans need truth. Help us report it.
Independent Texas reporting needs your support. The Texas Tribune delivers fact-based journalism for Texans, by Texans — and our community of members, the readers who donate, make our work possible. Help us bring you and millions of others in-depth news and information. Will you support our nonprofit newsroom with a donation of any amount?