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Published on May 22, 2024
Texas Speaker Phelan and Challenger Covey Fuel Race with Million-Dollar War ChestsSource: See page for author, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The race for Texas House Speaker heats up as Dade Phelan and GOP activist David Covey lock horns, their campaign coffers brimming thanks to hefty donations from high rollers with big bets on Texas politics. Phelan, the incumbent Speaker from Beaumont, is in the spotlight, facing off against Covey, buoyed by far-right support and equally large ambitions.

In a display of financial muscle, Phelan's campaign has amassed an eye-watering $3.44 million since late February, according to records from the Texas Ethics Commission, on the back of such contributions, he maintains a formidable war chest, spending $4 million in efforts to retain his seat. Covey, not to be outdone, brought in a substantial $1.68 million over the same time frame, albeit his expenditures closely tracking his fundraising at $1.58 million, reports KXAN.

High-stakes backers have entered this political casino, with Phelan's campaign receiving a substantial push from the Texas Defense Fund, a PAC generously padded with $9 million from Miriam Adelson, notably the owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire and a strong voice for legalizing her business interests in Texas as reported by the Texas Tribune. Covey is playing with a strong hand too, his coffers enriched by West Texas billionaire Tim Dunn’s Texans United for a Conservative Majority PAC, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's campaign, each staking significant funds to leverage Covey's conservative position against the establishment.

"If you are trying to push the party in a particular direction, [you] put forth primary challengers that are going to pull issues and the conversation and the actual potential legislation to the right or to the left," Emily Sydnor, a politics professor at Southwestern University said, in an effort to describe the nuanced tug-of-war shaping the GOP's future in Texas, representative of a broader national struggle within the party, according to KXAN.

Campaign finance drama aside, voters are heading to the polls for early voting which runs through Friday, right before the May 28 showdown that will not only determine who holds a seat, but also which faction of the Republican Party leads the narrative in the Texas House - and possibly, by extension, the broader conservative movement in the United States.