Patrick Battles Abbott for House Control
as Phelan Sees Runoff Victory as Certain

Capitol Inside
March 24, 2024

The warring among Texas Republicans intensified dramatically last week when Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick joined Governor Greg Abbott in a competition to become the first statewide leader to effectively control the state House with State Rep. Tom Oliverson's surprise emergence as a candidate for speaker.

Current Speaker Dade Phelan said he was "100 percent" sure that Patrick's fingerprints were all over the Oliverson campaign for the powerful leadership post that the incumbent House leader from Beaumont hopes to claim for a third time when the Legislature convenes again in January.

Patrick had tried to capitalize on Abbott's historic efforts with a slew of belated endorsements that he issued with Donald Trump rubber stamps on behalf of challengers who appeared to be leading House Republicans who the governor had targeted as revenge for the collapse of his signature school choice bill in special session last fall.

Patrick would deserve some credit if David Covey ousts Phelan in the House District 21 race after getting on the challenger's bandwagon a couple of months before the initial election. The lieutenant governor could have clamed that his latent support was a factor in House races that were extremely close in round one. But none were.

Abbott put in all the work in a monumental attempt to turn the Legislature's lower chamber into a personal puppet parade much like Patrick directs across the rotunda as the Senate president. So Patrick appears to be making up for what he failed to accomplish in the primary election with Oliverson on his leash if Phelan was on the mark with his comments in an interview on Thursday on Spectrum News after the Cypress representative who'd been an ally entered the leadership contest for 2025.

Patrick knows that getting a new speaker elected would trump whatever influence the governor thinks he will have in the Capitol's west wing after knocking off five House Republicans in the March primary vote with the opportunity to eliminate three more in the runoff election on May 28. Abbott lost two races in House districts that he targeted while three of the incumbent Republicans he supported and helped bankroll went down in the first round as well.

Phelan gave the impression that Patrick was delusional if he really thinks that Covey will emerge victorious from the runoff in HD 21. The speaker made it sound like a win for him in overtime is a foregone conclusion despite Covey's lead of 3 points in the first vote - which Phelan described as a "wake up call" for his campaign and supporters.

Phelan said his critics all thought he would be dead by now after spending more than $5 million in an attempt to take him out in the first round. He didn't mention that Trump is going all out to take him down with Patrick pulling the former president's strings.

"Here I am!" Phelan declared. "Who would have thought that, right? I'm going to win on the 28th. I know I'm going to win on the 28th. I'm going to get my voters back to the polls. That is what runoffs are all about."

Phelan suggested that he wasn't worried about Patrick's unprecedented intervention in his own re-election race. But he said he didn't like the idea of the lieutenant governor getting involved in GOP colleagues' races like Patrick did in vulturous fashion when he smelled blood that Abbott had drawn without any help whatsoever from other outside forces. Phelan said Patrick "crossed the Rubicon - to a certain extent" with his attempt to dismantle longstanding tradition that's made the Texas House a model for governing in the nation's eyes.

Oliverson is gambling his position that Phelan bestowed on him as the Insurance Committee chairman on the belief that the current speaker will not survive in the fight with Covery in OT or would be unelectable in the speaker's election at the outset of the 2025 regular session. But Oliverson could have serious second thoughts about the gambit if Phelan knows his district better than Covey, Patrick or Trump.

more to come ...







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