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Dade Phelan Defeats Trump-Backed Challenger

Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan | Image by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images
Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan | Image by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

In what may have been one of the most costly Texas House primary races ever, Republican incumbent Dade Phelan narrowly defeated challenger David Covey in Tuesday’s runoff election to represent District 21.

“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 (R-Beaumont) said in a statement on Tuesday evening, per Austin American-Statesman. “I owe a profound debt of gratitude to every voter and volunteer whose relentless dedication turned that vision into tonight’s resounding victory.”

Phelan, who was endorsed by former governor Rick Perry and the NRA, won the contest with 50.7% of the vote. Covey, a first-time candidate, fell short by 1.4% — about 366 votes — despite having secured endorsements from former President Donald Trump, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

However, some of Phelan’s GOP opponents viewed his narrow margin of victory as a “win” for their camp.

“We were hoping to enthusiastically retire Dade Phelan from office. Still, the fact that he narrowly squeaked by in a runoff election has neutralized and vastly diluted his relevance, power, and influence,” Tarrant County Republican Precinct Chair Rosalie Escobedo told The Dallas Express. “We The People are winning.”

As of May 20, Phelan’s campaign had reportedly spent $3.8 million on the runoff election, more than twice that of his challenger Covey, who spent $1.6 million. The combined spending of the two campaigns was most likely the most expensive race for a House seat in Texas history, The Texas Tribune reported.

Issues at the center of the House District race ranged from the Paxton impeachment to school choice.

After conceding the victory to Phelan, Covey criticized him as an “Austin swamp creature,” alleging that Phelan stole the election with the support of Democrats, the Tribune reported.

“Dade Phelan may have won this election, but in doing so, he has irrevocably destroyed his already feeble legacy,” Covey said in a statement reported by the Austin American-Statesman. “The Texas history books will undoubtedly record how a frightened Speaker, desperate to save his political future, mobilized the very party he claims to oppose. This betrayal of his own principles and supporters is a stain that will never be washed away.”

Phelan’s seat in the legislature is assured, as no Democratic candidate is running against him on the November ballot. However, whether Phelan will retain his position as Speaker of the House during the next legislative session remains to be seen.

Paxton, who actively campaigned against Phelan and others who led impeachment efforts against the attorney general last year, issued a warning to any remaining Phelan supporters in the House.

“My message to Austin is clear: to those considering supporting Dade Phelan as Speaker in 2025, ask your 15 colleagues who lost re-election how they feel about their decision now,” Paxton said, reported the Austin American-Statesman.

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