Phelan Easy MVP in Runoff All Stars
with VanDeaver, Hopper, Dem & More

Capitol Inside
May 31, 2024

Dade Phelan (R-Inc)
Most Valuable Player

Gary VanDeaver (R-Inc)
Best Inumbent

Andy Hopper (R)
Best Challenger

John McQueeney (R)
Best Open Race

Lauren Simmons (D)
Best Democrat

Rick Perry (R)
Best Cheerleader

Miriam Adelson (R)
Best Donor













Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is the obvious and only choice in the competition for most valuable player honors in the primary runoff election with a victory that he scored in the face of opposition without precedent with Donald Trump as foe David Covey's favorite cheerleaders.

Phelan is the clear-cut favorite in the leadership sweepstakes for 2025 in the Legislature's lower chamber after surviving a self-induced apocalypse with a victory over Covey on Tuesday night with 50.7 percent of the vote in House District 21 in southeast Texas at the northern end of the Gulf Coast.

GOP State Rep. Gary VanDeaver of New Boston delivered the most outstanding performance by an incumbent who's not the speaker with a win that he chalked up with 53.4 percent of the vote against a challenger who had Governor Greg Abbott and the far right in his corner with a war chest nearly twice the size.

Decatur Republican Andy Hopper gets the nod here for best challenger campaign in the second round after ousting State Rep. Lynn Stucky of Sanger in a rubber match despite Abbott's vigorous support for the incumbent. Hopper led Stucky by 3 points in the initial election before crushing him by 16 in OT with over 58.1 percent of the vote.

The GOP's John McQueeney of Fort Worth is the pick here for top performance by a Texas candidate in an open race in the runoff after a come-from-behind victory of epic proportions against a conservative opponent who came within a hair of winning in March. McQueeney marked Abbott's only truly impressive win in the overtime election that the governor ended with an overall mark of six wins and five losses.

But Las Vegas casino tycoon Miriam Adelson may deserve more credit than Abbott for a 21-point swing that elevated McQueeney to the winners circle with a late infusion of $1.2 million for his campaign.

House District 146 nominee Lauren Simmons of Houston is a cinch for best campaign by a Democrat in the Texas runoff after giving State Rep. Shawn Thierry the boot with nearly 65 percent of the vote on Tuesday. Thierry has a unique distinction as the only Democratic lawmakers in Texas to lose a seat in the first or second rounds of the Texas primary.

Republican Rick Perry - the longest serving governor in Texas history - is any easy choice for best celebrity supporter honors in round two after stumping for hard Phelan in his home district in a slap at his former boss as an original Trump cabinet member in the role of energy secretary.

Adelson edged out Abbott sugar donor Jeff Yass of Philadelphia for most valuable contributor in round two of the primary here this year. The list of runner-ups includes Republican U.S. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio in the incumbent category, Keresa Richardson of McKinney and the GOP in the challenger competition and AJ Louderback of Victoria in the competition for open seats in Texas on the runoff ballot.

Gonzales escaped lightning with a win over YouTube personality Brandon Herrera with 50.7 percent of the second round vote in one of the nation's hottest congressional contests up to now in 2024. Richardson buried rookie Republican State Rep. Frederick Frazier of McKinney with almost 68 percent of the Tuesday vote. Louderback bounced back from an initial deficit to win a runoff in an open House race when he beat Jeff Bauknight by a double-digit margin with 55 percent of the vote.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is a distant second to Perry in the individual supporter department with an overall record in the runoff of 7-5 including monumental defeats with Covey and VanDeaver victim Chris Spencer on an impeachment slate.

Abbott finished the runoff with a losing record in House races with incumbents at 3-4. The governor needed three wins in four open races to finish above water in his own targeting exhibition that ended with a mark of 6-5 overall in battles for the state Capitol's west wing. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was a wash in House runoffs with an overall record of 4-4 this week.

But Abbott's support didn't make a dime's worth of difference in races that GOP State Reps. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth, Frazier and Stucky lost despite his full-throated endorsement as a reward for votes for his signature school choice bill in special session last fall.

Klick led David Lowe by 2 points in the March vote before he defeated here by 13 in a rematch with 56.6 percent of the runoff vote. Stucky appeared to have a fight chance in round two with Abbott leading the cheers for him. Hopper beat him nonetheless on the strength of a 16-point swing in OT in a race where the governor appeared to have zero impact. Abbott's endorsement proved worthless in Frazier's case as well.

Abbott and Paxton both deserved fair shares of credit for wins that challengers Helen Kerwin of Glen Rose, Katrina Pierson of Rockwall and Alan Schoolcraft of San Antonio racked up this week in OT with double-digit winning margins. But Pierson has a significant asterisk by her name in the box score for the governor, who refused to rally behind her campaign until the runoff. Pierson could have expected to win easily in round two with or without Abbott's belated help.

Phelan knocked the wind from conservatives who'd collectively predicted that he would fall in overtime in a development that would have sent the House into a different orbit by disenfranchising Democrats and millions of voters who elected them to public office.

Thanks to Phelan, Trump was arguably the biggest loser in the runoff vote in Texas even though he wasn't actually on the ballot here in overtime after an easy win in March. Phelan, who claimed to have voted for Trump every opportunity he had, embarrassed the former president and probable White House nominee and his celebrity allies in the Lone Star State.

Trump may think twice before taking any more advice on state elections here from Patrick or Paxton after allowing them to suck him into a speaker's race that he would have no interest whatsoever in if not for their eggings and prods. With Phelan looking down on them from cloud nine, Paxton and Patrick have been stewing in angry states of denial since the voters in HD 21 proved them wrong.

Paxton and Patrick both refused to accept defeat in HD 21 after predicting at the Texas GOP Convention last week that Phelan was doomed in the runoff. Patrick falsely contended that Phelan had won nothing in the runoff vote. Paxton asserted that the Texas speaker stole the election by luring Democrats to vote in the GOP primary in House District 21. The sour grapes complaining had to be music to Phelan's ears.

Phelan had everything imaginable going against him with Trump's frequent trashings - a first for a White House nominee who's a former president in a legislative contest at the state level. Armed with information from Patrick and Paxton, Trump attacked Phelan ruthlessly with dramatic exaggerations and baseless claims about his record on election integrity and border security.

A Phelan defeat would put RINOs one step away from complete extinction in Texas with a state House majority that would ban Democratic committees chairs and invalidate the votes that the minority party's members are supposed to have in a speaker's election.

But Phelan prevailed in the final analysis because he knew the district where he's lived most of his life a lot better than an ex-president from the east coast and outsiders from Austin. Phelan had two distinct advantages that would have to overcome a hurricane of reasons to think he's need a miracle to have a chance. He's the product of a famous local family that ran the legendary Spindletop oil field. And he had endless resources for his campaign - with Adelson kicking in more than $500,000 earlier this month in a direct donations and contributions from a new Texas Defense PAC.

Phelan may have had eyebrows in the rise with an election-night social media post that portrayed him as a David in a battle with a Goliath who'd raised records amounts of cash as a challenger for the House. "Tonight, I am immensely grateful to the voters of Southeast Texas, who have spoken loud and clear: in Southeast Texas, we set our own course—our community is not for sale, and our values are not up for auction," Phelan said on X.

Covey benefited from substantial spending against Phelan by third parties in addition to $2.6 million that the challenger rounded up in HD 21. But Phelan raised more than $9.5 million with his campaign committee - nearly four times more than Covey. After nearly blowing up his career with Paxton's impeachment a year ago, Phelan understood that turnout would be his last hope for survival. And he spent what it would take to make it happen with stronger showings in overtime in his home base of Jefferson County and Orange County as well. Phelan seemed to concede Jasper County to Covey with a lower share of the vote there in the runoff than round one.

While Phelan lost 14 GOP colleagues who'd also backed impeachment in the primary and runoff elections, he still has the inside lane to the gavel in a House where Democrats can effectively decide who the winning Republican will be in a speaker's race as long as they're united. Do the math. Phelan would need 14 GOP votes to claim a third term if he had all 62 Democrats on the current roster in his camp.

We will have more in the coming week on the brand new House speaker's race and the other candidates who've been saluted in the best of the election assessment for the Texas primary runoff in 2024.








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