Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday endorsed a challenger to Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who has drawn the ire of Republicans statewide and nationally after supporting Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s impeachment last year.
David Covey, who is running against Phelan in Texas’ 21st state House District, now has the backing of Trump and Paxton ahead of the GOP primary in March.
“David Covey is running against Dade Phelan, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, who led the Fraudulent Impeachment of the recently re-elected, in a landslide, Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton,” Trump said in a post on Truth Social. “David is an America First Conservative who will Secure the Border, Restore Election Integrity, Protect our Families and Military/Vets, and Defend our under siege Second Amendment.”
The Texas House of Representatives impeached Paxton last May with the support of Phelan, but the state Senate acquitted him of charges of corruption and abuse of office in September. Trump had called on Phelan to resign after Paxton’s acquittal.
“I have voted for President Trump twice, and I plan on voting for him a third time. Trump himself has stated he does not know me nor does he know my record of fighting for Southeast Texans,” Speaker Phelan said Tuesday in a statement. “Unfortunately, my opponents have sought this endorsement in yet another attempt to get retribution against me for holding public officials accountable and defending the Texas House against outside interests.”
The former president’s move came less than a week after Phelan announced his endorsement of Trump’s campaign. Trump solidified his status as the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner after winning the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
“Last week Dade Phelan said, ‘I voted for President Trump twice for President, and I’m going to vote for him a third time. I think he’s going to be the Nominee.’ Words, however, do not mitigate the Absolute Embarrassment Speaker Phelan inflicted upon the State of Texas and our Great Republican Party!” Trump said in his Truth Social post.
Paxton, a staunch Trump ally, has been heavily involved in the effort to oust Phelan, appearing on the campaign trail and in TV ads on Covey’s behalf.
“Dade has lost his way, and is more beholden to the Democrats who elected his speaker than the people who elected him to fight for them,” Paxton says in one ad.
Phelan, meanwhile, has sought to tout his conservative credentials on guns, the border and transgender issues.
In one Phelan campaign ad that began airing before Trump announced his endorsement, two Texas Republican county chairmen, Leo LaBauve and Joe Evans, warn against “negative attack ads” from “people who don’t even live here.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com