Could Two Texas Politicians Really “Duel”? Texas Law Says Yes.

Gun Rights

On Monday, big-hatted agriculture commissioner Sid Miller posted a furious text he presumably received from state representative Glenn Rogers goading him to engage in a good old-fashioned duel. A duel! Like Alexander Hamilton or Wyatt Earp. His grievance? Miller’s endorsement of Rogers’s primary challenger, as part of Miller’s “RINO hunt” campaign to retaliate against lawmakers who voted to impeach beleaguered attorney general Ken Paxton. 

“You are a bought and paid for, pathetic narcissist. If you had any honor, you would challenge me, or any of my Republican colleagues to a duel instead of strutting around posting pictures with a rifle threatening to shoot RINOS. A RINO is any conservative Republican not bought and paid for by Wilks and Dunn. You are an embarrassment to agriculture and the State of Texas,” the message—which, we should stress, Miller himself shared publicly—read. (Rogers has not publicly commented on the exchange and did not respond to an inquiry on the matter.)

“Wilks and Dunn” refers to the Wilks brothers and Tim Dunn, oilmen and wildly influential GOP power brokers with nigh-infinite budgets. Miller’s response didn’t dispute Rogers’s central claim that he is owned by the duo, but he may get his chance later. Miller declared, “I accept your challenge,” with a caveat that may disappoint those who enjoy a bit of fisticuffs: the weapon he’s chosen, as the challenged party, is “words.” The two, should Rogers accept these terms, will engage in a debate. 

More mature than a street brawl, sure. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the far more exciting option—a literal duel—is technically legal in Texas. Swords and pistols are banned, but we’re one of two lucky states (the other being Washington) where consenting adults can choose to settle a dispute by beating the crap out of each other. The Texas Penal Code has a clause devoted to “consent as defense to assaultive conduct”—two caveats being that the fight can’t result in “serious bodily injury” or be part of a street gang initiation.

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So, not exactly carte blanche to beat your nemesis bloody with his permission—and it goes without saying that the once-proud tradition of duels to the death is off the table—but it would still be considerably less boring than an exchange of ideas. Staged political debates, by their nature, tend to involve two politicians talking past, and occasionally over, one another, with only a moderator there to try to make the affair watchable for the viewing public. And in that regard, Rogers may be at a disadvantage: conservative media outlet Texas Scorecard, which has been critical of Rogers, immediately offered to host the debate, which puts a sizable thumb on the scale in favor of the ag commissioner.

Rogers, for his part, has yet to publicly respond to Miller’s proposal. Should he do so, we’d advise he proposes some tweaks—a neutral location, a format at least a little less conducive to typical political bullshitting. A rap battle; a roping contest (Miller would probably win); a crab race; an obstacle course à la American Ninja Warrior; a race to see who can finish three of the legendary four-and-a-half-pound breakfast tacos at Recio’s, in Corpus Christi; maybe a best-of-seven series in Twister—we’ve got a million ideas. Whatever it is, Rogers should also wear a much bigger hat than Miller, to intimidate his foe. 

But we expect that this is merely an academic exercise, given that Rogers has had several days to say “bring it” to Miller’s offer and has pointedly declined to do so. His tweets in the days since Miller posted the screenshot have focused on attacking the Biden administration’s border policy, touting his endorsements—the National Rifle Association, Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND—and disparaging proposed school-voucher programs that would negatively impact schools in his own rural district. When one guy calls for a brawl and the other suggests a debate at his friend’s house, it’s unlikely that common ground will be found. 

Ultimately, the biggest surprise in all of this is probably that it took until late January of 2024 for the possibility of a duel to emerge from Texas GOP infighting. We won’t expect Miller and Rogers to lace up the gloves and settle their feud in the ring, but we’ve set the possibility that some pairing of our state’s esteemed leaders will end up slapping each other silly before the year is out at “entirely plausible.”

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