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The Texas Tribune
The Texas Tribune
Patrick Svitek

State Rep. Matt Schaefer will not seek reelection

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, with his family on the House floor on opening day of the 88th Texas Legislature at the Texas Capitol on Jan. 10, 2023.
State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, wearing a red tie, sits with his family on the House floor on opening day of the 88th Texas Legislature on Jan. 10, 2023. (Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune)

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, the Tyler Republican who chairs the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced Monday he will not run for reelection.

“It’s time for the next conservative leader to be the voice of House District 6 in Austin,” Schaefer said in a Facebook post, adding that he looks “forward to spending more time with my wonderful wife, young children, church, and business.”

He added that his political future “remains in God’s hands” and that he would consider running for state Senate if his local seat became open.

Schaefer was first elected in 2012 and represents a deeply conservative district anchored by Tyler in East Texas.

Schaefer is known for being one of the farthest-right members of the lower chamber. He chaired the Freedom Caucus when it launched in 2017 and then took the helm again for 2023.

The caucus started out as a rambunctious group but grew to become more collaborative with leadership — and Schaefer carried some important bills in recent years. In 2021, he authored what Republicans call “constitutional carry” legislation that allowed the permitless carry of handguns, one of several proposals that made up what some Republicans deemed the “most conservative session ever.”

Schaefer has been especially strident on issues related to the border. In 2017, he authored a controversial amendment to the state’s “sanctuary cities” ban that allowed local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain. During the latest regular session, he authored an unsuccessful proposal to create a state-run “Border Protection Unit.”

Schaefer also stood out this year for vocally opposing the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, splitting with most House Republicans. Despite siding against Paxton in his 2022 primary — backing Paxton challenger Louie Gohmert — Schaefer said the impeachment process was too flawed to support the extraordinary step.

Schaefer was on hand in June when Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis visited Eagle Pass to announce a hard-right border policy. Schaefer endorsed DeSantis that day and remains one of the few elected officials in Texas to publicly go against former President Donald Trump in the 2024 primary.

Schaefer made clear in Monday’s statement that he may not be done with politics.

“If our outstanding State Senator Bryan Hughes ever chooses higher office, I will strongly consider running for the Texas Senate,” Schaefer said.

The full program is now LIVE for the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 21-23 in Austin. Explore the program featuring more than 100 unforgettable conversations coming to TribFest. Panel topics include the biggest 2024 races and what’s ahead, how big cities in Texas and around the country are changing, the integrity of upcoming elections and so much more. See the full program.

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