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Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday endorsed a primary challenger to Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, the latest development in a race that has become a referendum on the power of the far-right faction of the state Republican Party.
On the social media platform Truth Social, Trump announced his support for former Orange County Republican Party chair David Covey in the House District 21 race.
“David is an America First Conservative who will Secure the Border, Restore Election Integrity, Protect our Families and Military/Vets, and Defend our under siege Second Amendment.”
Trump criticized Phelan for supporting the impeachment of his ally, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which the former president called “fraudulent.” Paxton was acquitted by the Senate.
The announcement came just days after Phelan endorsed Trump’s reelection campaign. Trump said Phelan’s support, however, does not “mitigate the Absolute Embarrassment” of the Paxton impeachment.
In a statement Tuesday, Phelan sought to tether himself to the former president while casting the endorsement of Covey as an ill-informed decision.
“I have voted for President Trump twice, and I plan on voting for him a third time,” Phelan said. “Trump himself has stated he does not know me nor does he know my record of fighting for Southeast Texans. Unfortunately, my opponents have sought this endorsement in yet another attempt to get retribution against me for holding public officials accountable and defending the Texas House against outside interests.”
Phelan, first elected in 2014, had never faced a primary opponent until this year. Now he faces two, Covey and anti-tax activist Alicia Davis, in the district that covers Orange, Jasper and part of Jefferson counties.
This isn’t the first time Trump has taken a special interest in Phelan, notable because of the former president’s willingness to get involved in a seemingly granular state legislative issue.
Trump was critical of Phelan throughout Paxton’s impeachment. And in October 2021, Trump blasted the House leader for inaction on an election audit bill that was a priority Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — another close ally of Trump.
“Texans are tired of Phelan’s weak RINO leadership in the State House,” Trump said at the time. “If this doesn’t pass soon, we look forward to seeing him in the Texas primary.”
Asked at the time whether he used Trump to target Phelan, Patrick did not deny his involvement, saying his “displeasure with the Speaker at the end of the session is not a secret.”
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