Throughout 2021, State Rep. Lyle Larson has done what he does best: Speak his mind. Known for bucking the Texas GOP’s top brass throughout the past several years, the San Antonio Republican was easily the harshest intraparty critic of Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration during the spring and special sessions. See for yourself — his Twitter account is littered with condemnations of the provocative, dangerous, and out-of-touch policies that his peers have rammed through the Legislature.
In fitting fashion, Larson took to the social media platform on Wednesday morning to announce his upcoming retirement from the Texas State House: “Truly appreciate the opportunity to serve the folks in Bexar County over the last 3 decades. Will not seek re-election in 2022. Carpe Diem”
While brief and understated, Larson’s declaration is a significant one. That’s because his impending departure from the State Capitol will leave a glaring, backbone-shaped void within the Republican ranks. The six-term representative wasn’t just one of the loudest conservative voices decrying Gov. Abbott’s recent attacks on voting rights, the GOP’s callous negligence during the pandemic, or his party’s war on history via “critical race theory” bills. He was one of the only voices. As the aforementioned tweets show, he has frequently aired his disdain for his party’s far-right shift.
Larson’s decision is hardly surprising. For one, he’s been an ardent proponent of term limits, having repeatedly introduced legislation that would have forced elected officials to leave office after 12 years. Considering he’d been in the House since 2010, it’s logical that he’d step down next year.
More importantly, his divergence from other Texas Republicans had become increasingly untenable. Indeed, although he’s long been an opponent of Abbott’s — the governor famously tried (and failed) to make an example out of Larson by backing his primary challenger in 2018 — the representative’s resistance ratched up to another level in recent months. From sharing his support for a potential statewide run by his friend and fellow self-proclaimed moderate, former Texas Speaker Joe Straus, to venting his frustration online about the need for a third political party, the San Antonian was clearly losing his patience with GOP leadership. That has continued into the ongoing redistricting process, where Republicans have laid bare their efforts to silence the voices of Texas’ communities of color.
Many details about Larson’s future remain murky. Whispers of a statewide run alongside Straus have already begun to swirl — though the viability of a moderate Republican toppling, say, Gov. Abbott or Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the GOP primary seems doubtful at best. Regardless of what he does next, though, the lawmaker’s legacy is a damning one for Republicans. Because, for as outspoken as he’s been, his words have fallen on deaf ears with his conservative counterparts.