After primary runoffs, where do things stand in the Texas GOP?

House Speaker Dade Phelan won his primary, as did many candidates supported by Gov. Greg Abbott.

By Sarah AschMay 29, 2024 2:13 pm,

It’s no secret that the Texas Republican Party is in turmoil — infighting between the state’s top lawmakers has dominated the headlines over the past six months and led to conflicting endorsements in primary races this spring.

With the runoffs from those primaries finally resolved, what do the results tell us about the state of politics in Texas’ ruling party?

Deirdre Delisi, a political consultant and former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry, said she saw two clear winners in the runoffs: Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

“Greg Abbott made the most of the races that he participated in. He participated heavily with a clear message. And he won the majority of those races,” she said. “I think a lot of people prematurely wrote [Phelan’s] political obituary, and he just simply outworked his opponents. And when I say outworked his opponents, I’m not talking just people in his district or his real opponent. It’s all of the national and Texas money that flooded that race to defeat a sitting speaker.”

Delisi said Abbott has set himself up well to pursue his school voucher plan, which is called school choice by supporters and would use public dollars to send kids to private schools, next legislative session.

Abbott “defeated a lot of incumbents, and it was unprecedented. But he did it with a sole purpose in mind, which is he wants to pass school choice. So I have no doubt that a solid school choice bill will pass in Texas during the next legislative session, probably with the participation of the next speaker,” she said. “So, I fully expect next session there will be a lot of additional conservative credentials and accolades that candidates and members are going to run on.”

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Delisi also said Abbott has set a precedent for how he will respond to legislators who defy his political wishes, so next election cycle members will be prepared for that as a possibility. And despite the talk of a civil war within the Republican Party of Texas, Delisi said she doesn’t expect Democrats to make much headway in statewide politics anytime soon.

“I’ve been involved in Texas politics for two and a half, almost three decades now, and ever since the Republicans took total control of the state — and that really happened in the 2002 election cycle — I’ve been hearing this is the cycle where the Democrats are going to come in,” she said. “We’ve been hearing that for 20 years, and the Democrats really haven’t made a dent in the electoral politics of Texas.”

Delisi said it is increasingly difficult to compete on a statewide level in Texas without massive fundraising behind you.

“Democrats have felt like they’ve had great opportunities with an embattled attorney general or, you know, down-ballot races that don’t get as much attention. And they’re just really not getting there. They have a lack of really high-quality candidates. They have a lack of candidates who can carry a message and raise the money to be able to compete in a state like Texas, which is increasingly becoming a state where if you don’t raise $50 to $100 million, you cannot compete.”

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