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Despite Far-Right Convention Battle Cries, Phelan And Gonzales Win Runoffs

When Texas GOP convention-goers were not talking about Trump and Biden, the topic of potentially changing party rules to close its primary elections statewide, which hardliners claim is preventing them from completing their proposed far-right takeover of the state government. 

The raging party infighting that developed during the 2023 Texas legislative session was the driving factor in the push to do so, as evidenced by complaints from party heavyweights that Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan would not have won his runoff election without support from Democrats who crossed over to vote for Phelan.

Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed that the more moderate Phelan had “blatantly stolen” the election because Democrats had supported him. Phelan led the Texas House impeachment of Paxton on corruption and bribery charges.

Paxton threatened any elected party officials with primary opposition if they chose to support Phelan for the speakership in the 2025 legislature. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also opposed the more moderate speaker and endorsed Phelan’s opponent David Covey, along with former President Trump.

Phelan had significant financial backing from political strategists Karl Rove and other traditional Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, but narrowly won what is reported to be the most expensive house seat race in the history of Texas. 

Rep. Tony Gonzales, also a more moderate Republican like Phelan, defeated Brandon Herrera in his primary runoff. Herrera is a far-right gun rights advocate who calls himself “The AK Guy” on social media. 

Exhibiting groups urge hard-right, pro-Christian agenda

Of the over 100 exhibitors at the GOP state convention in San Antonio over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, nearly all advocated for positions that would move the party further right, as has been the trend in the Trump era. 

Exhibitors and convention delegates made derogatory statements about Phelan and other “RINO” Republicans, blaming him and the Democratic legislators for defeating bills representing their causes. 

  • The Huffines Liberty Foundation advocated for a change to party rules to close the primary process statewide and implement term limits for longtime party officials like Phelan. The group espouses the notion that local government entities and school districts stole $6 billion from Texas taxpayers in their convention materials displayed in their exhibit area. The group also advocates for ending birthright citizenship. 
  • Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, advocated for completely eliminating property taxes, an absolutely essential source of funding for public school systems that are already widely considered to be among the poorest funded of any state in the U.S.
  • Mom’s for Liberty, which formed in January 2021 in reaction to “woke indoctrination,” somehow tying the buzz phrase to poor reading levels in Texas schools.
  • Texas Values Action handed out material supporting a ban on state funding for any educational materials regarding gender fluidity or sex education materials in Texas schools libraries, even though students are only allowed to study sexual health, puberty or reproduction with parental permission. 
  • The Conservative Republicans of Texas disseminated a one-page flier titled “The Christian Patriot’s Pledge,” which mingles references to the Declaration of Independence with biblical proverbs, calling Democrats “atheistic pro-communist…despicable baby killers, pornographers, pedophiles, sodomites, transgenders, Antifa and the BLM that have infiltrated our civil government.”
  • The John Birch Society, which has stoked similar fears of outside infiltration since the 1950’s “Red Scare,” shouted in the main hall opposing any future amendments to the U.S. Constitution, even though the right to do so is enshrined in the document. 

What’s next for the party?

However, despite Phelan and Gonzales winning, many more traditional Republicans continue to lose primaries statewide when they face MAGA-minded candidates who see no reason to continue the more moderate pro-business party values of decades past. 

The wins in the 2024 primaries will likely give pro-voucher right-wing legislators a greater probability of passing such bills that will undoubtedly cause further hardships for Texas public school districts, as budget cuts will be undertaken by even the largest districts, many of whom have been operating under a budget deficit in the current fiscal year. 

District trustees and administrators are urging citizens to contact their representatives, and many blame Gov. Greg Abbott for withholding funding that could be released but is being held hostage by Abbott and other voucher advocates. 

Dave Manning
Dave Manning
Dave Manning is a content creation professional with a background in multiple forms of media and communications. As a former university publications editor, staff, and freelance writer, he has created content for newspapers, magazines, and online media sites. He has also created content, both written and digital, for small businesses, global corporations, and nonprofit organizations. Aside from being a regular contributor to RA News, he is currently working on a novel for digital publication.


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