As Republicans fight to preserve their majority in Congress' lower chamber, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan swung through Texas last week for a retreat with about 100 GOP donors, a series of fundraisers and to promote legislation like last year's sweeping tax overhaul.
The Wisconsin Republican raised almost $4 million with events in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, according to one of his aides. The money went to Team Ryan, a joint fundraising committee that supports the speaker and other Republicans running for Congress.
House Republicans are largely playing defense in the November mid-term elections, hoping to hold on to their majority amid Democratic enthusiasm across the country. In Texas, national Democrats have expanded their sights beyond their perennial target — the 23rd District currently held by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes — to include places like the 7th District in Houston and the 32nd District in Dallas. The former is currently represented by U.S. Rep. John Culberson, while the latter by U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions.
The retreat was held in downtown Austin and covered three days, ending Friday morning. Ryan helped lead a briefing on upcoming legislative issues including workforce development and infrastructure. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was on hand to promote the Republican tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed into law last year. And attendees heard from Ryan's top political staffers — as well as pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson — about the path to keeping the majority in the fall.
Ryan and the donors were joined at the retreat by a number of House Republicans from Texas and elsewhere. Those attendees included Brady and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores of Bryan as well as U.S. Reps. Mimi Walters of California and Jason Lewis of Minnesota, according to someone familiar with the event. Lewis is one of the most vulnerable House GOP incumbents this year, and Walters is also facing serious competition in her re-election campaign.
Ryan's retreat and fundraisers were private affairs, though his trip to Texas included two public events earlier in the week. On Monday, he visited Southwest Airlines headquarters in Dallas to promote the GOP tax law with Brady, and on Tuesday, he went to Fort Worth to discuss workforce development at the local branch of Catholic Charities.
Ryan also made a couple of lower-profile stops while touring the state. Later Tuesday, Ryan appeared at the Family Endeavors/Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in San Antonio to discuss veterans care, and the next day, he swung by the Austin Police Department headquarters to thank officials for their response to the deadly bombings last month.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.