Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
A host of big-name Republicans, including many potential 2024 presidential candidates, are set to visit Austin later this month for a private retreat for donors to a Texas voter registration effort.
Speakers for the Feb. 24 conference include former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. That is according to an email that went out last week from Karl Rove, the veteran GOP strategist who helps raise money for the registration initiative, known as the Texas Voter Engagement Project.
The email teased “two more special guests we hope to announce soon.” One of them is U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, according to an updated invitation Wednesday.
Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn are helping to host the event at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa. Cornyn is slated to give welcome remarks, and Abbott plans to attend depending on what’s happening in the legislative session that started last month. The event is not open to the public.
Members of the Texas congressional delegation will also be there to interview the out-of-state speakers.
So far, the event excludes the two biggest names related to the 2024 primary: Former President Donald Trump, who is already running, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not declared yet but has emerged as Trump’s most formidable potential opponent. DeSantis is set to visit Texas in early March to headline fundraising dinners for the Republican parties in Harris and Dallas counties.
There was a similar retreat in May 2021 in Austin, and DeSantis was in the lineup.
The Voter Engagement Project started a few years ago as Texas Republicans were looking to reboot their core party functions after a tough 2018 election. The project says it has since registered almost 400,000 new Republican voters.
The conference is meant to thank donors but also volunteers, including members of the Texas Federation of Republican Women who were among the most active helpers.
Disclosure: Karl Rove has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.