Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan wins runoff, but several GOP incumbents lose seats

House Speaker Dade Phelan was victorious in his home district Tuesday night, after a hard-fought primary runoff race against GOP challenger David Covey.

"This has been a real battle within the Republican Party," said Scott Braddock, editor of quorumreport.com.

Phelan declared victory shortly after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, while Covey conceded defeat.

"An incumbent speaker of the House going to a runoff is unheard of in Texas politics," said Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University.

Not surprisingly, turnout was very low at the polls statewide, but it was notably higher in and around Phelan’s hometown of Beaumont.

"Basically a tidal wave of turnout in the areas that are good for speaker Phelan," said Braddock.

Phelan’s win came despite former President Trump, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton all endorsing his opponent.

Paxton was pushing for Phelan’s ouster as payback for the House impeachment of Paxton last year, which ended in an acquittal in the Senate.

"[Paxton’s] going to try to spin it as a victory, saying, ‘sure, I took this person to a runoff’. But at the end of the day, his revenge tour falls a little bit flat because the person he wanted most out of office is still in office," said Smith.

But Phelan’s win now, and his expected victory in the general election in November, doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll pick his gavel back up in January like nothing happened.

"There’s going to be a lot of challengers to that speaker position, and some of them are going to be backed by the lieutenant governor, who's going to want to be able to handpick, who's going to be working on that other side of the Capitol," said Smith.

Tuesday was also a good night for Gov. Greg Abbott, who campaigned against several sitting GOP house members.

"It’s the governor trying to settle his feud with those Republicans who voted against his position on school vouchers late last year," said Braddock.

Sure enough, on Tuesday night, most Republican incumbents who were forced into runoffs after blocking vouchers were overpowered by Abbott-backed challengers.

"Abbott right now is trying to get as many votes in his pocket as possible so that when he brings the issue up again in the legislative session, that end zone they keep trying to reach is a lot closer," said Smith.

Abbott posted on X Tuesday night: "The Texas Legislature now has enough votes to pass school choice."

But some caution that getting school choice passed could still be an uphill battle for Abbott, especially if Democrats are able to flip a few House seats in November.

"There’s still, as they say, a lot of baseball left to play," said Braddock.