A network of self-styled “grassroots” organizations and a state lawmaker who have received financial backing either directly or indirectly from a small group of wealthy political donors have made it their mission to promote the unconstitutional idea that Texas should secede from the United States of America.
The issue of Texas secession, often referred to as “Texit”, has long been dismissed as a fringe issue. Members of the Republican Party have long prided themselves on their American patriotism and support of American exceptionalism.
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However, a small handful of wealthy political donors appear to be trying to mainstream the idea of Texas secession within the Republican Party.
On March 6- the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo and just days after Texas Independence Day- State Representative Bryan Slaton filed HB 3596 to put the question of Texas independence on the November, 2023 ballot. While Slaton has been vocal in promoting this legislation through his social media accounts and in media interviews, the bill likely violates the Texas Constitution.
Texas Attorney General Opinion GM-0489, authored in 1939, recognized that “Ours is a representative democracy, as opposed to a pure democracy. The laws are made not by the people directly, but through their chosen representatives.” As such, the legislative branch of government cannot delegate the lawmaking authority that the people have vested to it in the Texas constitution.
Unlike some states, such as California, the Texas constitution does not allow for direct democracy on policy issues except in limited circumstances. The Texas constitution only authorizes statewide referenda on amendments to the Texas constitution and on approval of state debt. Since the referendum proposed in Slaton’s bill is not a constitutional amendment, there is no constitutional authority to place it on the ballot.
Slaton has been the beneficiary of the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, which has contributed $160,500 to Slaton’s campaigns. The largest donors to Defend Texas Liberty are Midland oilman Tim Dunn and Cisco businessman Farris Wilks. Dunn and his wife have contributed over $7 million to Defend Texas Liberty, while Wilks and his wife have contributed over $3 million to it.
Defend Texas Liberty took an active role in the 2022 Republican primaries, most notably with its support of former State Senator Don Huffines’ primary challenge to Governor Greg Abbott and bankrolling challenges to 20 incumbent members of the Texas House of Representatives. Defend Texas Liberty’s efforts in the 2022 primary were largely unsuccessful, with Huffines coming in 3rd place in the gubernatorial primary with only 12% and failing to unseat any of the 20 incumbent state lawmakers they targeted.
The 2022 Republican primaries also saw visible activity by the Texas Nationalist Movement, which advocates for Texas’ secession from the United States. The President of the Texas Nationalist Movement, Daniel Miller, challenged Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in the 2022 Republican Primary. Miller was soundly defeated, earning just 7% of the vote against Patrick.
Since his failed campaign for Lt. Governor, Miller has traveled across Texas promoting his pro-secession message. He has been a frequent speaker at meetings of the True Texas Project, whose Political Action Committee was funded almost entirely by Defend Texas Liberty in 2022. According to the True Texas Project website, Miller is scheduled to speak at 4 of their upcoming meetings in addition to the meetings he has spoken at previously. Tyler-based Grassroots America We the People, led by JoAnn Fleming, hosted Miller at one of their meetings last month. Grassroots America We the People also endorsed Miller’s bid for Lt. Governor last year.
The Texas Voice has written previously about racially-charged comments posted by leaders of the True Texas Project, as well as some of their leaders’ refusal to support Republican nominees in the 2022 general election.
During the 2022 elections, Miller’s Texas Nationalist Movement asked candidates for public office to sign a “Texas First Pledge”, which included pledges to “publicly and officially [support] a vote on Texas reasserting its status as an independent, self-governing nation” and “file or co-author legislation to enable a vote on Texas reasserting its status as an independent nation in every term” the signor is in office, if the signor was a legislative candidate.
Defend Texas Liberty was a major donor to 9 candidates who signed the Texas Nationalist Movement’s pledge. Among the most notable of the Defend Texas Liberty funded candidates who signed the pledge were Don Huffines, Bryan Slaton, and Shelley Luther. In total, Defend Texas Liberty contributed over $4 million to candidates who signed the secessionist group’s pledge.