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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

At least 53,900 OC voters qualify for Phelan-Covey runoff

 

Last updated 3/12/2024 at 10:12pm

David Covey

The battle for Texas House of Representatives District 21 is now in a runoff and will depend on how many people get out and vote in the Republican primary runoff on May 28.

According to the Orange County Elections Administration, the county has 54,871 voters and a little more than 41,000 did not cast a ballot in last week's primary race. Of those voting, 12,834 voted in the Republican primary and only 981 in the Democratic primary.

Anyone who did not vote in a primary race may vote in the Republican primary runoff. The 981 Democratic primary voters may not cross a party line and vote in the runoff. Nearly 53,900 voters in Orange County will be eligible to vote in the Republican primary. The number could increase if more people register in time for the runoff.

Incumbent Dade Phelan, who serves as the powerful speaker of the Texas house, is facing David Covey of Mauriceville for the district that includes Orange and Jasper counties, plus part of Jefferson County.

The runoff will be Tuesday, May 28. Early voting will run only five days, between Monday, May 20, and Friday, May 24. The last day to register to vote is April 29.

District-wide, including Jasper and part of Jefferson counties, Covey chalked up 15,579 votes, or 46.3 percent, with Phelan at 14,547, or 43.2 percent. Alicia Davis of Jasper threw the race into a runoff by getting 3,517 votes, or 10.7 percent, mostly in Jasper County.

Davis campaigned on eliminating all property taxes, but did not propose an alternative way for counties, cities, and school districts to pay for their basic services. She is now endorsing Covey, who also wants to stop property taxes.

In Orange County, Covey received 8,203 votes, or 54.52 percent, with Phelan getting 5,911, or 39.33 percent, and Alicia Davis of Jasper getting 925, or 6.15 percent.

In Orange County, the Republican primary brought the same kind of political divisions seen across the United States in recent years. In a split vote last year, the local Republican party censured Phelan for working with Democrats.

Cheryl Warren of Mauriceville, who started the Orange County Freedom Caucus and the School Integrity Project accusing Bridge City ISD of having "dirty" books, beat sitting OC Republican Chair Leo LaBauve III, who did not want to censure Phelan. Warren was endorsed by Attorney General Paxton and Lieutenant Governor Patrick.

The division brought about unusual contested races for Republican precinct chairs. A group calling itself "Restoring American Values" supported LaBauve, plus Gary Self, Stephanie Roberts, John Dubose, Kandice Bacon, and Robert Simonton for precinct chairs. O those, only Dubose and Simonton won.

For Precinct 9, Genevieve Garrison beat Gary Self 304-217. Tim Morrison beat Stephanie Roberts, 242 to 126 for Precinct 15. John P. Dubose, a former county commissioner and county judge candidate, beat Trudy Pellerin 149 to 90 for Precinct 2 chair. Rachel Stein, who describes herself as "Neighbor. Christian. Patriot" won the Precinct 26 chair 177 to 128 against Kandice Bacon. Robert Simonton beat Aaron Collier 470-360 for the Precinct 28 chair.

The District 21 race has drawn national attention as Covey as gained endorsements from former president Donald Trump, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

Trump, Paxton, and Patrick have long supported each other. Phelan last year, as speaker of the house, led a bipartisan impeachment hearing for Paxton.

The impeachment procedures began after Paxton settled a lawsuit by former attorneys in his office who accused him of wrong-doings, including giving favors to wealth supporters. Paxton asked the state to pay for the $3 million to go to the former assistant attorney generals.

Phelan refused for the state to pay the money and the Texas house began an investigation into Paxton and voted in favor of the impeachment. However, the Texas Senate, under Patrick's leadership, voted down the impeachment and Paxton remained in office.

Governor Greg Abbott has not endorsed anyone in the race, but has been behind the scenes trying to oust representatives who opposed his longtime plan for school vouchers in the state.

Under the voucher system, parents may receive public tax money to pay for their children's private schools, including religious ones, or for homeschooling. Phelan and many representatives in rural Texas have opposed the voucher system.

Covey was homeschooled and has supported vouchers. He is a former Orange County Republican chair and worked for U.S. Representative Steve Stockman from 2013-15.

Covey's brother, Jonathan, is director of policy for Texas Values, a Christian lobbying group in Austin. The lobby's website says "The Texas Values vision is to stand for biblical, Judeo-Christian values by ensuring Texas is a state in which religious liberty flourishes, families prosper, and every human life is valued."

Incumbent Dade Phelan

Covey has also drawn large financial support from a political action group founded by West Texas oil billionaire Tim Dunn, recently featured in a Texas Monthly story about his support for Christian politicians.

Phelan has the support of former governor Rick Perry and former state representative Ron Lewis, whose district included Orange County. Phelan also is touting his record of helping get more money for Lamar State College Orange, Lamar University, and Lamar State College Port Arthur, plus getting money to Orange County for drainage projects and other public works.

Many county and city officials here are backing Phelan and giving him credit for helping to entice the new $8.5 billion Chevron Phillips Chemical plant here.

 

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