Facing two challengers in the upcoming Republican primary election, House Speaker Dade Phelan is turning to Democrats for campaign fundraising support.
An invitation to an upcoming Phelan fundraiser in San Antonio released by the Texas Tribune shows a host committee including disgraced former House Speaker Joe Straus and a former Democrat nominee for lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte.
“It’s as if everyone knows he’s Democrats’ best ally,” wrote Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi on social media.
Taking power in 2009 through the result of a Democrat-led coup against Republican Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland, Straus spent almost a decade obstructing and subverting the will of Republican primary voters and the party platform—killing efforts to protect life, gun rights, and limit government from coming to the floor of the Texas House.
After the Republican Caucus passed bylaws to elect a unified Republican candidate for speaker, Straus was forced to call it quits, leaving the post—and the legislature—after 10 years behind the gavel.
More recently, Straus has ramped up his criticism of Republicans, admitting he did not vote for Donald Trump in 2020.
Van de Putte, meanwhile, was a former liberal Democrat member of the Senate. She was most well known for assisting former State Sen. Wendy Davis in an infamous 2013 fillibuster of pro-life legislation. Van de Putte then went on to mount an unsuccessful statewide campaign for lieutenant governor in 2014, losing to Dan Patrick.
Also included on the host committee list is former State Rep. Lyle Larson.
During his last session in 2021, Larson joined Democrats in advocating for Medicaid expansion. He was the only Republican House member to vote against election integrity legislation, as well as the only Republican to vote against arresting Democrat quorum-breakers who fled the state to freeze progress on conservative priorities.
He also pushed legislation to weaken the state’s pro-life Heartbeat Act.
Larson had also flirted with the idea of leaving the Republican Party for a new moderate third-party effort called the Save America Movement (SAM) Party.
In 2018, Gov. Greg Abbott called Larson “one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives,” though he went on to endorse him in 2020.
The fundraiser comes as Phelan faces primary challenges from former Orange County GOP Chair David Covey and activist Alicia Davis. Covey has already earned the endorsement of Attorney General Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Recent polling has revealed Phelan is underwater in popularity with voters statewide, as well as Republicans in his own district.
The primary election will take place on March 5, 2024.