Phelan’s Revenge? Texas House GOP Caucus Censors Fellow Republicans

After a censure of Speaker Dade Phelan in February by the state GOP and a tightly contested primary race for Phelan’s district having just concluded (with Phelan barely hanging on), Texas House Republican leadership just struck back.

According to a statement by Reps. Brian Harrison, Steve Toth, Tony Tinderholt, and Nate Schatzline,¬†the lower chamber’s GOP caucus voted to censure them tonight.

According to the statement from the quartet, it was retribution for campaigning against Republican incumbents, breaking a caucus rule jokingly referred to as “the incumbent protection plan.” However, they noted their endorsements were often joined by those of statewide Republican electeds such as Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, and Ag Commissioner Sid Miller, who all made their own sets of varying endorsements.

“We would’ve been happily expelled from the Texas House GOP Caucus, which worked with Democrats to help re-elect liberal Speaker Dade Phelan,” the statement read, decrying the “uniparty swamp.”

No statement was available on the Texas House Republican Caucus website or social media, however a birthday message was posted earlier in honor of one of Phelan’s lieutenants:

From the hip: This comes as no surprise, while it does indicate a worsening trend in terms of intra-Republican unity. The previous rumor was that the caucus would consider outright removing the quartet from the caucus, to which Rep. Harrison echoed a famous Founder:

 

While state convention was early this year (Memorial Day weekend, not summertime as it usually is), it is usually the mile-marker for the time of the election cycle where party members put their differences behind and began focusing more on beating the other party through November.

That biennial phase of good feelings usually lasts until the House caucuses meet to deliberate on who the next Speaker will be in December and January. But this move indicates a deeper would than Republicans typically experience after a tense primary season.

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Having lost 14 Speaker-friendly incumbents during the primary cycle might be what royally ticked off the House leadership cabal to take such an action.

Phelan has already demonstrated his willingness to play rogue actor with markedly different interim charges and priorities than the Governor or LiteGuv. We can expect more of this standoff going into the 2025 legislative year. We can also be on the lookout for some more spirited Speaker races: hats are already in the ring thrown by Reps. Tom Oliverson, Shelby Slawson, and of course Phelan.

Of note: None of the announced Speaker candidates nor the four legislators who were censured are currently part of the dwindling Texas Freedom Caucus, the usual suspects for opposing the Speaker. This may indicate another organized effort on the rightward flank to play offense following accusations that the caucus has gone too soft.

Texas Scorecard passed along the scuttlebutt that former Freedom Caucus members Reps. Cole Hefner and Jared Patterson are behind the censure, with the help of Rep. Glenn Rogers. Hefner, if readers recall, was caught up in a public affair in a previous session but managed to find his way to the powerful House Calendars and Ways & Means committees despite that, indicating he has acquiescced to the Speaker’s agenda enough for a key appointment. Patterson had support from Gov. Abbott in his re-election bid and did not draw a Republican opponent, and has also defended Phelan publicly. Rogers got beat by conservative challenger Mike Olcott. See the pattern?

As to Democratic pollsters and strategists licking their chops and hoping that the intra-GOP squabbling will give them a better shot in November? Don’t bet on it. Texas will soon pass its third decade without any Democrat statewides.

 

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