Here’s a quick recap of what happened over the last week:

Early Voting this Week for May 28th Runoffs

Early voting continues through 7PM today for the runoffs on Tuesday, May 28th.  The runoff races will go a long way in determining the direction of the Texas House next year, as 8 Republican incumbents were forced into runoffs to retain their seats.  This includes incumbent Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who is being challenged by David Covey in the southeast Texas district.  Covey has endorsements from former President Trump and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.  This is in addition to 9 incumbent Republican House members that were defeated in the March 5th primary.  One incumbent Democrat – Rep. Shawn Thierry of Houston – was also forced into a runoff against Lauren Ashley Simmons.  There are also nine other House seats that are in runoffs involving open seats where the incumbent did not seek reelection.

There are also two runoffs on the Senate side.  In Senate District 30, Brent Hagenbuch is facing off against Jace Yarbrough in a solidly red Denton area-based Senate seat where incumbent Sen. Drew Springer is not seeking reelection.  Also, newly elected Sen. Molly Cook of Houston will face off against Rep. Jarvis Johnson in the solidly blue Senate District 15 in Houston.  Cook recently won the special election to fill the term of former Senator John Whitmire, who was elected mayor of Houston in November.  The runoff next week will decide who is nominated to serve the full four-year term beginning in January of 2025.

In counties that have a contested Republican House race, turnout for early voting has been relatively high.  Some of the red counties have reached 7%-8% turnout so far.  In blue counties – such as Harris – that has more than one legislative runoff contest, turnout has been very low.  Less than 1% of registered voters in Harris County have voted in the Democratic primary runoff so far.    Turnout for election day is also expected to be relatively lower for both parties since the runoff falls on the day after a three-day holiday weekend.

Trump at NRA Convention

Former President Trump gave the keynote speech to the National Rifle Association convention last weekend in Dallas.  During the speech, Trump repeated his endorsements of three House candidates and one Senate candidate.  Trump gave special attention to and recognized David Covey in the audience, who is challenging incumbent Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan.  Trump said “we have to get rid of the terrible Speaker…”  He also repeated his endorsements of two Texas House candidates challenging incumbents in runoffs next week – Alan Schoolcraft running against Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin and Helen Kerwin challenging Rep DeWayne Burns of Cleburne.  Trump also repeated his recent endorsement of Brent Hagenbuch, in a runoff against Jace Yarbrough in an open Senate seat in north Texas.

Also, while at the convention, Trump was asked by a reporter from a local Dallas television station if he would consider Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for US Attorney General if Trump were elected President.  Trump said he would consider Paxton, calling him “very, very talented.”  Paxton is a longtime ally of Trump, having led the charge among state AGs in 2020 challenging the validity of the Presidential election.  Trump in turn endorsed Paxton in his 2022 reelection bid and has come to Paxton’s defense when he was impeached by the Texas House for allegedly accepting bribes and abusing the power of his office to help a wealthy donor.  The US Attorney General is a cabinet level position that leads the US Department of Justice and is subject to confirmation by the full US Senate.

Texas Republican Convention in San Antonio

The Texas Republican Party opened its convention in San Antonio yesterday.  The event features several of the state’s leaders as speakers and has several candidates, officeholders, and conservative interest groups as sponsors.  The party will select a new chair later today and establish the party platform for the fall elections and for priority legislation for the next regular session in January.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton both spoke yesterday morning during the opening sessions of the convention, and both focused their remarks on Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan.  Patrick criticized the House process of allowing the Democrats to play a role in selecting the House Speaker, which he says leads to Democrats having too much influence over legislation considered and passed in the House.  Patrick called on the Republican caucus to decide the House Speaker and to stop appointing Democratic chairs.  Paxton echoed Patrick’s sentiments and went further by saying Phelan is responsible for killing conservative legislation related to stronger border enforcement and school choice.  The convention lasts through Saturday.

Rally to Support Speaker Phelan

On Monday in Beaumont, several former leaders of the Republican party rallied in support of Speaker Phelan.  Former Governor Rick Perry, former US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and former Texas House Speakers Dennis Bonnen and Joe Straus were on hand for a get out the vote rally on the first day of early voting for the May 28th runoff.  This represents a contest of the old Republican guard vs the new more conservative wing of the party that is now in firm control of the state GOP.  Phelan’s opponent – David Covey — has the full support of the conservatives, touting endorsements from former President Trump and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.  Covey led Phelan going into the runoff and his faction of the party already has enjoyed significant victories over the more traditional candidates in the first round of voting March 5th.

Money Continues to Pour into Speaker Phelan Race


Already the most expensive Texas House race in the state’s history – with over $7 million spent so far – the money keeps pouring into the race where incumbent Speaker Dade Phelan is fighting for his political survival.  According to a report yesterday in the Texas Tribune, Phelan has received $660,000 from Miriam Adelson and the Texas Sands PAC.  Adelson is the owner of the Sands Casino group and has been advocating for the passage of legislation to bring casino gaming to Texas.  Recently, she started a new PAC called the Texas Defense PAC, and wrote a $9 million check to fund the PAC.  According to the most recent Texas Ethics Commission reports available, she is the only donor to the new PAC.

Phelan’s opponent – David Covey – has also received huge donations as of late from more conservative donors within the party.  The Texans United for a Conservative Majority PAC recently donated $400,000 to Covey.  Amarillo businessman Alex Fairly – whose daughter Caroline recently won the Republican nomination for an Amarillo based Texas House seat – contributed $500,000 to Covey for the runoff.  And Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has contributed $100,000 to Covey as well.

All of these figures are according to the most recent campaign finance reports available through the Texas Ethics Commission which cover all campaign activity from February 25th through May 18th.

Storms Devastate Houston Area

Tornadoes tore through the Houston area last Thursday evening with winds clocked as high as 110 MPH.  The areas of Waller County – west of Houston – and Cypress – in the northwest part of Harris County – were the hardest hit.  This was followed on Friday by a series of what the National Weather Service called a “derecho” event, where high winds come along with very rapidly moving thunderstorms that create a squall type storm.  Nearly 1 million people lost power due to the storms.  Some regained power over the weekend, but as last as Monday morning, estimates had over 200,000 customers without power.  CenterPoint – the main retail service provider in the area – restored power to 98% of its customers by Wednesday evening, leaving 20,000 still without power.  CenterPoint pledged to work through this weekend to get power restored to all customers.

The communities affected by the storm include Cypress, Spring, Humble, Greenspoint, and Spring Branch in the northern and western parts of the county over to Bellaire and Baytown in the central and easter parts of the county.  According to Harris County officials, 48,000 residents have applied with FEMA for storm relief, and FEMA has already distributed over $1 million for storm recovery.  In addition, the United Way and Greater Houston Community Foundation are working with the Greater Houston Disaster Alliance to establish a recovery fund specifically for residents affected by the severe weather events that have occurred from April 26th to May 17th.  The fund will be dependent on donations, with CenterPoint and Comcast each having contributed $500,000 so far.  Eligible residents can receive up to $15,000 for home repair.

The three Houston-area school districts hit hardest by the storms kept their campuses closed until Wednesday.  Even then, several campuses noted that traffic delays occurred due to traffic lights that were still not operational and staff shortages would be experienced with some staff still unable to return as they continue with their recovery.  The Cy-Fair and Spring Branch ISD’s were making accommodations for students regarding final exams, even exempting graduating seniors from their final round of tests.

Busy Atlantic Storm Season Predicted

The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1st, and forecasters are predicting one of the busiest seasons in recent history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting the region could experience up to 25 named storms.  To receive name recognition, a storm must reach sustained winds of 39 MPH.  Of the 25 named storms, NOAA predicts 8 to 13 of those will become hurricanes, which is a storm with sustained winds of 74 MPH.  And what is worse, NOAA predicts the region could experience as many as 7 category three storms, which is a storm of at least 111 MPH winds.

The reason NOAA gives for the increased activity is the water temperatures from the west coast of Africa through the Caribbean waters has been at record levels.  This provides fuel for low pressure tropical weather patterns that creates ideal conditions for storm development.  Ocean temperatures have not been this warm since 2005, when the Atlantic region experienced 27 named storms, including 4 category 5 storms.  Two of those storms – Rita and Katrina – both hit near the Texas/Louisiana border causing billions in damage to southeast Texas.

Memorial Day Travel

According to AAA, 3.6 million Texans are predicted to travel this Memorial Day weekend, which is a 4.2% increase from last year.  Top destinations in Texas are Galveston, Corpus Christi, the San Antonio river walk, and Fredericksburg.  Nationally, nearly 44 million are predicted to travel over the holiday, including 3.5 million air travelers.  Motorists in Texas should expect to pay $3.17/gallon, which is lower than the $3.60/gallon average nationally.

Political Notes

Trump returned to Texas on Wednesday for a pair of fundraisers.  First was a lunch time stop at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston – owned by Republican donor Tilman Fertitta – for a fundraiser with Houston area oil and gas executives.  Then it was on to Dallas for an evening fundraiser hosted by Dallas businessman Ray Washburne.  The Trump campaign said the proceeds will go to his campaign, the Republican National Committee, as well as 41 state Republican parties.  The Dallas event was a high dollar function, with couples being asked to give over $800,000.  Co-chairs of the event were asked to pony up $250,000.  The minimum amount to give to attend was $100,000.

As testimony ended this week in the hush money trial in New York, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick visited the court to show support for the former President.  Patrick addressed the media outside the courtroom saying that “they want to send him to jail because they know he is the biggest danger to taking the ruling class down.”  Patrick has received endorsements from Trump in his recent reelection bids and is the state chairman of the Trump Presidential campaign.  He was joined at the courthouse by Congressman Ronny Jackson of Amarillo and Congressman Troy Nehls of Fort Bend County.

More on the Republican state convention. Travis County GOP chair Matt Mackowiak has announced he will also be seeking the chairmanship of the party, joining five other candidates in the race. In his announcement, Mackowiak attacked the current party leadership for causing the disunity among the party faithful and criticized the party’s lack of fundraising over the last several years.  Current party chair Matt Rinaldi has endorsed Abraham George, former Collin County GOP chair as his replacement.  In addition to George, other candidates are former Texas House staffer Mike Garcia, current party vice-chair Dana Meyers, Houston businessman Ben Armenta, and Weston Martinez, who ran unsuccessfully for the Railroad Commission in 2022.

Gov. Abbott spend the first day of early voting in north Texas campaigning for two Texas House incumbents fighting for their reelection in runoffs.  Abbott made stops in Fort Worth to campaign for Rep. Stephanie Klick and Denton to help Rep. Lynn Stucky.  Then on Tuesday, Abbott went to Cibolo to campaign for Alan Schoolcraft, who is trying to unseat Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin.  Abbott is campaigning solely on the issue of school vouchers, and his endorsements are for candidates that have pledged to support the issue next session.  Abbott has donated $2.3 million to incumbents and candidates in runoff races that support private school vouchers.

What’s Next??

The runoff election is Tuesday, May 28th.  This will determine the basic makeup of the House and Senate for the 2025 session because there are very few races in November that will be contested.

With the release of House interim studies, look for several committees to schedule hearings in the coming weeks.  Of course, the speed and intensity of the hearings on the House side will depend on the outcome of the runoff elections.  Senate hearings are in full swing, with most Senate committees having scheduled several hearings over the next few weeks and months.

Next week, the Senate State Affairs Committee kicks off its interim hearing schedule on Wednesday when the committee will meet to discuss issues relating to Texas elections, the regulation of products containing hemp, and oversight of land acquisitions by foreign entities and individuals.

Have a great and very safe Memorial Day Weekend!!