Dennis Bonnen does not care about the opinion of grassroots conservatives.
When The Statesman asked Bonnen about criticism from Empower Texans, a renowned anti-establishment group, the House Speaker said “You will never please or appease those folks, and I’m sure as hell not going to waste my time trying.”
Bonnen was specifically asked about issues such as tougher anti-abortion laws or failure to expand gun rights, which were major planks of the Texas Republican party platform.
Bonnen confidently stated that he is “incredibly comfortable with my conservative record.”
The House Speaker lashed out against the group and its hardnosed tactics.
But more significantly, they are a group that you are fooling yourself and you are not respecting your constituents, you are not respecting this institution, if you are chasing their wants and their desires because you will never meet their wants and their desires. They are a group that is based on attacks and disrespect to raise money. They are not based on issue ideology.
In general, the 2019 session did not focus on wedge issues such as Constitutional Carry because of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s unexpected performance in the 2018 elections, which had a strong carryover into lower tier races in the State House and State Senate.
Because of this, Ray Sullivan, an aide for former Governor Rick Perry, said “every faction of the Republican Party needs to be rowing in the same direction, heading into the next election cycle, because everything is at least believed to be much more competitive than it has been in the past.”
The three chief players in the Texas state government—Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Dennis Bonnen— agreed with this assessment. Instead of focusing on controversial issues, they tackled issues like red light cameras, school finance, and property tax relief.
Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan disagreed with the conventional take on the 2019 legislative session. He even hinted at primarying bad incumbents who did not deliver on key conservative issues.
Interesting to watch #TxLege politicians cloak the session in the packaging of `unity.′ Most people in the real world couldn’t give a scintilla of a rip less about the `unity’ of politicians. They want measurable, visible results on the issues they care about.
The 2018 Texas Republican Party Platform placed these issues as their top five priorities:
- Constitutional Carry
- Abolishing Abortion
- Abolishing all Forms of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying
- Replacing the Maintenance and Operation School Property Tax with a Consumption Tax
- Protecting Religious Freedom
None of these key issues were addressed during the session, which irked Sullivan.
The Empower Texans CEO said, “except for a very, very narrow thin slice to protect a Georgia-based chicken business, while yet not addressing things like mandatory sick leave and all the other local principles attacking small businesses. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. It’s why I’m not sure how they keep up with this, how they think they’ll keep up this façade. But maybe, maybe they think, well, people are too stupid to care.”
For gun owners, this was a disappointing session in particular. House Speaker Bonnen killed Constitutional Carry without so much as a hearing, let alone a vote.
Although Texas remains a pro-gun state, with some of the most gun-friendly laws in the country, activists can’t afford to rest on their laurels. The progress Democrats made in 2018 was no coincidence, but rather a prospecting effort made by Democrats who recognize the changing demographics taking place in the U.S.
If establishment Republicans play politics as usual, they can expect massive policy reversals in the 2020s.
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