Club for Growth attack advertising aimed at Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan for 2024 primary



Governor Gives Phelan Stage for Mitigation
of Damage that Patrick, AG and PAC Attempt

Capitol Inside
March 28, 2024

After abandoning GOP Speaker Dade Phelan as an ally and partner on the most conservative legislative agendas in modern Texas history, Governor Greg Abbott could be helping the embattled Texas House leader significantly in a primary runoff survival quest by inviting to appear with him at two unrelated media events in the past eight days.

A picture with the increasingly famous Texas governor could be worth millions of dollars in advertising that money could never buy for a Phelan re-election campaign in a House district where out-of-state interests are spending record sums of cash to oust him in an overtime duel with Donald Trump-certified challenger David Covey.

As the Club for Growth announced its plans on Wednesday to double its investment in Texas with an infusion of $4 million more for challengers in five House runoffs, Phelan took some of the steam out of the gloating in advance when he teamed up with Abbott a few hours earlier for a photo op to promote a new Texas Space Commission.

Phelan joined forces with the governor on March 19 to tout the establishment of a Texas Semiconductor Innovation Consortium executive committee at the University of Texas at Dallas. The speaker and the governor sat together at the center of tables that had Republican State Rep. Greg Bonnen of Friendswood on one end next to Phelan at both events.

Bonnen, who easily defeated a foe in the primary election this month, found the funds to foot the bill for the new initiatives in his role as the chairman the House Appropriations Committee. The House budget chief's brother - former Speaker Dennis Bonnen - has been one of Phelan's most outspoken supporters in a bid to keep his hopes for a third term in the dais alive with a runoff win on May 28. But Bonnen the current lawmaker provided little more than window dressing at the Abbott-Phelan press conferences in question along with groups of people standing behind the powerful leadership duo for reasons that aren't apparent to the naked eye.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was a no-show at both of the events due to ostensible scheduling conflicts. Patrick has been Phelan's most stringent critic with Attorney General Ken Paxton and Trump in the booing section as well. Patrick escalated his attacks in recent days on Phelan's leading role in the attempted Paxton impeachment after the attorney general struck a deal with prosecutors that avoided a trial for securities fraud in a separate but related criminal case. Patrick appeared to be blaming the failed impeachment in 2023 for Paxton's criminal woes despite the fact that the AG had been under indictment for nearly a full decade.

Patrick and Paxton have to be unhappy with Abbott for giving Phelan a stage to mitigate some of the damage that they've caused for him and others plan to inflict before the runoff vote in House District 21 this spring. But neither will admit it publicly in fear of drawing the wrath of a governor who's scored unprecedented publicity in the past few months with a bid to have the state take over the enforcement of immigration law from the federal government.

Patrick has been teasing Abbott for the number two spot on the GOP ticket in 2024 with Trump - having hailed the governor as "vice-presidential" at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference last week. Patrick wasn't concerned that the praise for Abbott would look shamelessly self-serving in light of the fact that the Senate boss would get an automatic promotion to governor if the top Texas current leader moves to Washington D.C.

The Club for Growth that's based in Virginia revealed on Wednesday that it plans to double its investment on behalf of challengers in Texas House races that will be decided in round two. The political action committee poured $4 million in state House contests with GOP incumbents who the group calls RINOs with school choice as the paramount issue.

With the School Freedom Fund as a conduit, the group claimed victories in the first round when seven House Republicans fell to challengers in the initial vote on March 5. Abbott had targeted a handful of the incumbents who lost in the first round to opponents who've vowed to march in lockstep with him on school vouchers and other major issues.

Abbott is seeking to defeat four of five House Republicans in OT with Phelan as the lone exception. But Abbott's claim to neutrality in HB 21 is debatable in light of the priceless photo ops with the speaker this month.

more to come ...







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