Opposition from Texas Republicans and Trump, State House Speaker Survives Challenge to Republican Party Primary

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The Associated Press predicts Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan will survive David Covey's Republican primary election.

Phelan's victory in a state House district east of Houston is seen as a political setback for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former President Donald Trump, as well as Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Phelan oversaw the effort to oust Paxton last year on corruption charges. Paxton was acquitted by the Senate after the House overwhelmingly impeached the controversial attorney general.

CONTROVERSIAL MOVEMENT: ABBOTT GIVEN ARMY SERGEANT WHO KILLED BLM PROTESTER

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, left, and Governor Greg Abbott talk during the first day of the 88th Texas Legislative Session in Austin, Texas, January 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In response, Paxton targeted more than 30 sitting Republican Party state representatives, with Phelan at the top of the list. Paxton's most powerful ally, Trump, supported Covey.

Meanwhile, Abbott was seeking retaliation for the fall in the State House last year of his education plan, which would have opened the taps to taxpayer funding for private schools. The school voucher measure, which was Abbott's top legislative issue last year, passed the Senate, but its defeat in the state House was a rare political setback for the three-term governor.

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Nine Republican House lawmakers lost in the March primary, while eight others were forced into a runoff. They were all targeted by either Abbott or Paxton, or by both the governor and the attorney general.

Donald Trump endorses Texas State House Speaker Phelan's challenger in Tuesday's Republican Party primaries

Former President Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association Convention on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“It's a power play and absolutely a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party of Texas and Governor Abbott wants to get lawmakers there who will support his agenda,” veteran Texas Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser told Fox News last week. .

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“For Ken Paxton and [Lt. Gov.] Dan Patrick and Donald Trump by proxy, for them it's certainly trying to take out the person who led the impeachment of Ken Paxton and who stood in the way of Dan Patrick's agenda in the Senate. All these factors together create a truly powerful force that the Speaker can overcome,” he stressed.

Texas Abortion Law

Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, monitors the House chamber during a vote, Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The race was also seen as a proxy battle for the future of the GOP in Texas.

Phelan was supported by old guard Republicans and conservative-leaning business leaders who helped bring the Republican Party to power in Texas in the 1980s and 1990s. Covey enjoyed the support not only of Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Paxton and Trump, but also of far-right activists who placed more emphasis on social and cultural issues.

Had Phelan lost, he would have become the first Texas House speaker to be ousted in the primary in more than half a century.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more on our Fox News Digital election hub.

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