Bad Blood Boils at GOP Caucus Meal
as VC Gets Heat from Speaker Team

Capitol Inside
April 2, 2024

Tempers flared at a Texas House Republican Caucus dinner on Monday night in Frisco when a high-ranking lieutenant for Speaker Dade Phelan confronted a former ally who turned against the leadership team last month with the launching of a campaign for the gavel in 2025.

Based on accounts from representatives at the event, a shouting match erupted after State Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano called out State Rep. Tom Oliverson of Cypress for his plans to keep his post as the caucus vice-chair at the same time he's running for speaker.

1 Dade Phelan
2 Tom Oliverson
3 Todd Hunter
4 Shelby Slawson
5 Ellen Troxclair
6 Brad Buckley
7 James Frank
8 Cody Harris
9 Jeff Leach
10 Jared Patterson

The Republicans were dining and drinking at the Omni Frisco at the Star Hotel when the verbal altercation broke out on the evening before a caucus golf tournament that was set for Tuesday in the Denton County suburb. Bad blood that Oliverson's fledgling speaker bid had fueled hit a boiling point when Leach contended that he'd have a conflict as a caucus officer and candidate for the leadership post simultaneously.

Leach and fellow House leaders argued that a precedent was established when Republicans Tom Craddick and current State Senator Tan Parker gave up roles as the caucus chair after declaring as candidates for speaker. Craddick won the speaker's job in 2003. Parker was one of several unsuccessful candidates for the powerful position before Dennis Bonnen claimed the job in 2019.

Parker won a promotion to the Senate in 2022. Parker served as the Texas Senate GOP Caucus acting chair when State Senator Angela Paxton of McKinney stepped aside temporarily for her husband's impeachment trial. Parker is second vice-chair for the Senate caucus.

But the GOP Caucus in the Legislature's lower chamber was never as bitterly divided in the past like it is now with Phelan scrambling to hold a leadership team together while fighting to save his political hide in a primary runoff clash with first-round leader David Covey in a hometown re-election race.

Phelan lost eight colleagues who were allies in the March primary election including a handful who Governor Greg Abbott targeted for defeat and sought to bury with record amounts of cash. Phelan stands to lose seven more incumbents who are supporters in runoffs even if he survives at home in round two.

All bets would be off if Phelan goes down in OT. But Phelan would have a realistic chance for a third term - despite the catastrophic damage that his team has sustained - in an arena where he would have seven months to use the power of his office to try to rebuild a team.

The caucus chairmanship is expected to open up on Wednesday with a resignation by the group's current leader - State Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth - in anticipation of a race for Congress as the GOP nominee this fall. Caucus bylaws - according to legislators in Frisco this week - prevent the election of a new chair for 30 days. As the current vice-chair, Oliverson would ascend into the lead role for a month under that scenario.

more to come ...







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