Heading into the November election, a senior lawmaker in the Texas House allegedly threatened a candidate’s spouse to keep quiet about a series of affairs or face challenges to his fitness as a parent from legislators. More important than marital vows or the well-being of children was the outcome of an election.
This allegation sits at the center of a sordid love triangle alleged by Ashley Burke and apparently involving her former boss State Rep. Lacey Hull (R–Houston), State Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mount Pleasant), and their mutual campaign consultant and lobbyist Jordan Berry.
“I know based on verbal and written confirmation directly from Hull to me, often in explicit detail, that she was engaged in multiple affairs before, during, and beyond the course of her campaign season,” Ashley Burke told Texas Scorecard. “She engaged in a full-fledged affair with Rep. Cole Hefner; he was a prominent fixture during her campaign, often escorting Lacey in his own vehicle to and from ‘campaign activities.’ We now see Hull voting in line with Hefner in the House, even when the voting goes against convictions she has claimed to hold in the past.”
At the time of the alleged affairs, Burke was Hull’s campaign manager and was copied on text messages between Hull and her apparent paramours. This occurred while Hull was married to Trevor Hull, with whom she shares a child. Berry is single, while Hefner is married with seven children.
“Most disturbingly, [Hull] engaged in sexual activity with her political consultant, Jordan Berry. Berry happens to be the recipient of the majority of her campaign contributions: her constituents’ hard-earned money. The corruption speaks for itself,” added Burke.
Burke said she decided to speak out because of the impact “sexual corruption” has on politics and policy.
“Sexual corruption has led to muddled policy-making, inconsistencies, and broken promises,” Burke told Texas Scorecard. “For those who think what happens behind closed doors does not affect them, I have witnessed firsthand that it affects each of us more profoundly than anything these men and women say publicly or put on a push card.”
The triangle of sexual relationships appears to be revealed in a series of often obscene and graphic text exchanges; when Burke was not a party in these exchanges, Hull sent Burke copies. Texas Scorecard has reviewed the text messages but has made the editorial decision not to publish them due to their lewd content. Additional documentary evidence of the affairs has been reviewed by Texas Scorecard, including photographs and flight records relating to Hefner’s personal plane.
The allegation from Burke and the documents support rumors of the affairs that have been circulating at the capitol since late last year. The reports of adultery were first leveled in divorce filings by Trevor Hull in November.
As one example from the documents, Burke provided a text message stream in which Hefner and Hull appear to banter about the “loud noise(s)” they made in a hotel room being heard by “the neighbors” and “maybe the front desk.” In the exchange, Hefner goes on to describe “some new words” he learned regarding a specific sex act.
But the seediness of the affair is overshadowed by the alleged cover-up attempted by State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R–Spring).
Despite text messages in which Hull expresses to Burke her disdain for Swanson and other Harris County Republicans, it was Swanson who, on a phone call with Trevor Hull, allegedly urged he keep silent about the adultery in order to prevent Democrats from picking up an extra seat in the November election.
Mr. Hull has been under a judicial gag order since last fall, and so was not contacted for comment.
A source who was briefed about the call prior to the gag order alleged the Spring Republican urged Mr. Hull not to talk about his wife’s affairs with Berry and Hefner—or face a long line of lawmakers testifying against his character and fitness as a parent.
Texas Scorecard initially reached out to Swanson when rumors of these allegations first arose several months ago. She did not respond to those inquires, nor did she respond today to text messages and calls to her Capitol office.
Hefner was first elected to the Texas House in 2015 as the handpicked successor of Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) when he advanced to the Senate that same year. Hughes is also a client of the campaign consultant/lobbyist Jordan Berry.
But before being elected to the House, Hefner was known for offering his private plane to lawmakers and using it to travel the state to block-walk and attend events. Even before the affair was made known, the sheer amount of time he was spending campaigning for Hull—some 250 miles from his home—raised eyebrows.
When asked about the affair and Swanson’s role in threatening Mr. Hull, Hefner did not respond for comment.