Trump and Paxton Fail to Defeat Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan in Run-Off Special Election

In a show of the limits of Trump’s power over Republican primary elections, another Trump-endorsed candidate, David Covey, lost to incumbent Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan in a run-off special election on Tuesday night.

With all precincts reporting, Phelan was up by 366 votes, defeating the candidate backed by Trump, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and former Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi. In doing so, he avoided becoming the first House speaker to lose a primary in 52 years.

Phelan, 48, who has seen his popularity plummet among Texas Republicans since he backed the impeachment of Paxton on corruption and bribery charges exactly one year and one day ago, was defiant in his victory speech.

Covey, who lost within the margin of being able to call for a recount, conceded to Phelan at 9:30pm.

Phelan’s win is a major blow to the party’s ultra-MAGA faction, led by Paxton and Patrick, who reject compromise and bipartisanship, demonizing Democrats and the Republicans willing to work with them. 

Attorney General Ken Paxton had vowed revenge against Phelan for supporting his impeachment, and  said the speaker had "blatantly stolen an election from the hard-working people of his district" by courting Democrats. Paxton said Republicans should move to closed primaries — a priority of the far right — and he issued a warning to members of the House.

The more business-oriented establishment wing of the party viewed Phelan’s campaign as a last stand to maintain influence — and civility — in the Legislature. That group, led by some of the state’s wealthiest business executives, political strategists like Karl Rove and erstwhile Republican elected officials including U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, poured millions of dollars into Phelan’s campaign. Phelan’s win was a victory for them, too. That well-heeled group of powerbrokers, who swept Texas Republicans into power in the 1990s, cracking a century of Democratic dominance, showed that despite recent attacks on their own reputations as RINOs, they still have sway within the state party.

Texas Tribune

Meidas Touch

  • According to Newsweek, the Republican Party of Texas has voted on a proposal to require any statewide office candidate to win a majority of Texas’ 254 counties, essentially preventing any Democrat from winning a state office.

The majority of Democratic voters in Texas are concentrated in only a handful of counties with major cities.

It is unclear whether the proposal “would be constitutional and conform with the Voting Rights Act.”

  • Another motion voted on stated that “Texas retains the right to secede from the United States, and the Texas Legislature should be called upon to pass a referendum consistent thereto.”
  • Other motions included a call to “abolish abortion by immediately securing the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all preborn children from the moment of fertilization.”
  • Another motion included a call to reverse the renaming of military bases named after Confederate leaders to “publicly honor the southern heroes,” and a proposal that Confederate “monuments that have been removed should be restored to their historic locations.”

The votes happened during a conference that took place from May 23-25 in San Antonio, and once the votes have been counted, the Texas GOP platform will be announced.