The Speaker of the Texas State House, Dennis Bonnen, has announced that he will be resigning after being caught in a scandal with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan.
The first-term Republican Texas House Speaker not seeking re-election to the lower chamber in 2020 completes a stunning fall after he received near unanimous support in the House earlier this month.
“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,” Bonnen said in a statement, which included a list of 43 House Republicans — a majority of the House GOP Caucus — that the speaker said, “have made clear that it is in the best interest of both myself and the House to move on.”
Bonnen’s own brother, Greg Bonnen of Friendswood, was among those on the list asking him to step down.
Bonnen’s political future was first called into question in late July, when hard line conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, who heads the group Empower Texans, revealed that Sullivan, Bonnen and one of the speaker’s top allies had met at the Texas Capitol the month before.
At that meeting, Sullivan alleged, Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, suggested Empower Texans go after a list of 10 House Republicans and told Sullivan his group could have media access to the lower chamber in 2021.
Bonnen also disparaged multiple Democrats, calling one “vile” and another “a piece of shit,” and said his goal for the next legislative session is to make it the worst “in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.”
Bonnen was accused by Sullivan of offering him press credentials if he opposed 10 Republican incumbents.
Sullivan also said that Bonnen and House Republican Caucus Leader Dustin Burrows mocked fellow lawmakers and said they “hated” city and county governments.
Bonnen and Burrows tried to deny the allegations, but Sullivan released a recording of the conversation that led Burrows to resign.
And, back in October he was also busted speaking negatively about President Donald Trump.
Dennis Bonnen, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, won't run for reelection after he was caught privately blaspheming against President Trump https://t.co/3cm2dMrqxn
— Intelligencer (@intelligencer) October 23, 2019
The Texas Tribune adds:
Bonnen’s decision not to seek reelection means his seat in House District 25 will be open for the first time in over two decades.
One Republican, emergency room nurse Rhonda Seth, was already running for the seat. The district in southeast Texas is solidly Republican.
With Bonnen’s exit, members will be jockeying among one another to become the next speaker. That election won’t happen until the next time the Legislature convenes, which is scheduled to happen in January 2021.
Democrats, for their part, cast the news as “a victory for transparency and accountability.”
“Texans are tired of politicians, like Republican Speaker Bonnen, who use backroom deals, cover-ups and outright lies to pursue power over everything,” said state party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “Now more than ever, it is clear that only the election of Texas Democrats will return … ethics and good governance to our great state.”
But the case involving Bonnen is a somber reminder that corruption resides on both sides of the political aisle, and that draining the swamp may sometimes also apply to Republicans.