Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Texas House speaker heads to a runoff against a Trump-endorsed challenger

By 37ci3 Mar6,2024

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and his Republican challenger David Covey, backed by former President Donald Trump and Attorney General Ken Paxton, will face a May primary runoff, according to the Associated Press.

Phelan and Covey were neck and neck in early results Wednesday, while a third GOP candidate, Alicia Davis, a barber, won fewer votes but helped deny both candidates majorities of their party’s vote.

Phelan drew the ire of Republicans in Texas and nationally when he led the impeachment process against state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Covey, a GOP activist, campaigned heavily in support of Trump, while Paxton appeared on the trail and in ads on his behalf.

Phelan has perhaps the most politically dangerous job in Texas: Speakers must be elected by their districts and by all 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives. That means a Republican like Phelan has to convince his Democratic colleagues and conservative primary voters in his district to re-elect him every two years.

Phelan was first elected to the state house in 2014 and took the speaker’s chair in 2021. But his tenuous balancing act between the House’s left and right wings was disrupted last year when he oversaw the impeachment of Paxton on corruption charges. The impeachment and subsequent trial caused widespread strife within the Texas GOP.

The Texas Senate has refused to impeach and impeach Paxton, and Paxton — who is backed by Trump — has vowed to retaliate against those trying to remove him from office. Paxton campaigned against Phelan and dozens of other GOP incumbents leading up to Tuesday’s primary.

“Any Republican who supports Felan is an idiot and should be kicked out of the Republican Party – how bad is Felan, especially at Election Integrity!” Trump endorsed Covey on Truth Social.

Paxton said in one Covey ad: “Dade has lost his way and is more beholden to the Democrats who elected him speaker than the people who elected him to fight for them.”

In a campaign ad, Phelan accused Paxton of misleading the public and Trump.

“The vindictive Paxton is the reason why Trump got himself into our race. If Paxton is going to break his vows to his wife and to God, why would he tell Trump or you the truth?” Phelan said, pointing to details of Paxton’s extramarital affair that were revealed during the trial.

Phelan worked to keep the campaign local. In recent weeks, he has enjoyed the support of former Gov. Rick Perry, who has boasted to supporters that Phelan puts his district at the table on every major decision the Legislature makes.

“I don’t know why I have to be in Beaumont, Texas, and I told you, if you get rid of Dade Phelan, you’re going to be out of your mind,” Perry joked, dismissing the party’s infighting as unnecessary. “I mean, we’re going to give you all mental aptitude tests.”

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By 37ci3

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