86th LegislatureIssuesState HouseStatewide NewsTexas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Will Not Seek Re-Election

In the aftermath of a recording in which a quid pro quo was offered to a grassroots leader, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will not seek re-election.
October 22, 2019
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Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) announced this morning he would not seek reelection to the Texas House. 

“Since Friday, I have had numerous conversations with Members who care deeply about the Texas House, and I respect the manner in which they have handled the entire situation. After much prayer, consultation, and thoughtful consideration with my family, it is clear that I can no longer seek re-election as State Representative of District 25, and subsequently, as Speaker of the House,” said Bonnen in a statement. 

“I care deeply about this body and the work we have accomplished over the years, namely, the outstanding success we achieved in the 86th Legislature,” he continued.

This announcement comes after Michael Quinn Sullivan, of the conservative grassroots group Empower Texans, released a recording of a closed-door meeting he had with Bonnen, in which Bonnen offered a clear quid pro quo — Texas House media credentials in exchange for Sullivan monetarily targeting 10 select “moderate” Republican House members.

This list of members was told to Sullivan by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), who served as chairman of the Texas House Republican Caucus at the time, though Bonnen explicitly named two of the members he wished for Sullivan to oppose in the Republican primary during the course of the recorded meeting.

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After Sullivan initially broke news of the meeting, Bonnen maintained that no such list existed, that Sullivan had been the one to call the meeting, and reiterated that he looked forward to campaigning for his fellow Republican House members.

Eventually, Bonnen apologized for saying “terrible things” about some of his colleagues, but still denied many of Sullivan’s claims. His insistence was enough for some loyal House members, but the dominoes began to fall once the recording was made accessible to the public last week.

In May, Bonnen went on the record stating he would not campaign against members of either party in the lower chamber, and Burrows oversaw the adoption of GOP caucus bylaws that prohibited members of the caucus from actively campaigning, or even “assisting” in campaigning against fellow members.

A slew of state representatives had either pulled their support from or called for the resignation of the embattled speaker in the last twenty-four hours, including many of those Bonnen had hand-picked for leadership positions.

The total had exceeded 30 members by the time Bonnen made his announcement.

In an email to supporters, Sullivan said, “[Bonnen] has gone from the third-ranking constitutional officer in Texas to a cautionary tale about the dangers of political hubris.”

Though a re-election effort is no longer in the cards for Bonnen, it is unclear what will be next for the leadership of the Texas House. In order for a new speaker to be appointed before the next legislative session — which will convene in January 2021 — the governor would need to call a special session in which members could then vote for new leadership.

Until then, House members will begin jockeying and positioning behind the scenes to replace their leader, whose first and only term will be historically marked by scandal.

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Operations Manager and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.