(R-Texas House of Representatives, District 85)
After the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, far-rightists quickly turned to efforts to delegitimize the results and put Trump back in the White House. “Stop the Steal” became the name for the mobilization. Animated by conspiracy theories, scores of groups with variants of the name popped up on Facebook, attracting hundreds of thousands of activists before the groups were removed from the platform.
Like the COVID Denial mobilization, Stop the Steal efforts involved a broad swath of the far-right: from long-time Tea Party leaders and establishment groups like Turning Point USA and Women for America First; to nationalist paramilitaries like the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers; to the street brawlers of the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer; to anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones of Infowars; the anti-vaxxer Freedom Angels; Qanon believers; and white nationalists. “Stop the Steal” efforts moved into the streets and helped pave the way for the January 6th Capitol insurrection.
Several legislators in this report became members of Stop the Steal Facebook groups, but none joined as many as Texas State Representative Phil Stephenson.
In November 2020, Stephenson joined at least 17 different “Stop the Steal” groups, leading in membership in that category among the legislators included in this report.
In addition to engagement with Stop the Steal groups, Phil Stephenson described in August 2021, “It was a momentous day in the Texas House as we passed legislation to protect the integrity of our elections. I was proud to support Senate Bill 1 so we can promote voter access, deter fraud, and restore full faith and confidence in our state’s electoral system.”
As the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law observed, “The legislation restricts nearly every method of voting overwhelmingly used by voters of color in 2020: It limits early voting and ballot drop boxes, curbs how absentee ballots can be distributed and who can vote by mail, and bans drive-thru voting. While the provisions of SB 1 will hinder the ability of all Texans to vote, these new restrictions intentionally and disproportionately impact communities of color.” As a result, the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the U.S. Justice Department filed lawsuits against the voter suppression law.
In February 2020, Stephenson shed light on another aspect of his politics, posting a video on Facebook that declared, “In the Texas House, Phil has argued for and helped advance the Convention of States and the state legislature’s push for Article V, which calls for a Constitutional Convention.” The video ends with, “I’m Phil Stephenson, and I approve this message.”
As early as 2013, Stephenson has expressed his support for a “LIMITED CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION WITH SPECIFIC ITEMS TO BE DISCUSSED AND VOTED ON,” but that he would “BE WARY OF AN OPEN CONVENTION WITH SO MANY DEMOCRATS WHO WANT TO DO AWAY WITH OUR CONSTITUTION” [Capitals in original].