Texas House Republicans want State Representative Dennis Bonnen to step down as House Speaker.
On Tuesday, the audio version of Speaker Bonnen’s quid pro quo deal of media credentials to Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan in exchange for attacking certain Republicans was released to the public. BLP covered this backroom deal back in July.
The reaction so far has been explosive, with several House Republicans calling on Bonnen to resign according to a report from Texas Scorecard.
State Representative Steve Toth was the first to comment after audio went public, declaring in an official statement, “Speaker Bonnen needs to resign as speaker immediately. Based on the recording alone, it’s clear Speaker Bonnen has not been truthful about his meeting with Mr. Sullivan.”
“This is not who we are as a party. It’s an affront to our system of public service and should never have happened. Republicans must take the lead in reforming the Texas House by replacing the speaker,” Toth continued. “Texans will rightly judge us by our urgency and commitment to do the right thing as expeditiously as possible.”
State Representative Matt Schaefer, who represents a district in East Texas, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph, “The behavior we tolerate becomes the standard we set. The transcript released today confirms that a serious breach of integrity has been committed on multiple levels. Speaker Bonnen should resign.”
“We do not need a legal and ethical cloud hanging over House Republicans as we ask Texans to trust us with their vote in 2020,” Schaefer stated.
State Representative Kyle Biedermann stood by his initial call for Bonnen to step down, which was prompted after he listened to Bonnen’s audio recording back in August.. Biederman informed Texas Scorecard that “All Texans now know that Dennis Bonnen created a double standard for all of his colleagues and lied repeatedly to each of us when he was caught. This has proven the worst about Texas politics in a time when we sorely need more from our elected officials. We must take swift action to replace the current leadership and restore the public trust in the Texas House and in the Republican caucus.”
State Representative John Smithee, who caused a stir in August for declaring that the Republican caucus had a “Texas-sized mess on its hands,” also joined in the calls for Bonnen to resign on Tuesday. Smithee said to a local reporter that he believes that there are other members with the “character and integrity to lead the House.” In his view, this scandal represents a “forfeiture of the speaker’s right to lead.”
“I think almost anyone who listened to the tape had to be sickened and disgusted by what they heard,” Smithee said to another North Texas news outlet. “It exposed an underbelly of a culture of corruption in Texas politics [that] I think is probably inexcusable.”
Retiring State Representative and staunch conservative Jonathan Stickland, who was one of the first to call for Bonnen to resign after he received information about Bonnen’s meeting, made sure to remind everyone that his suspicions were right all along. “TOLD YA!!!!!” Stickland tweeted.
State Representative, who was mentioned multiple times as a primary target during the recording, had previously demanded Bonnen’s resignation during the summer. On Wednesday, he declared it was “time to cut the head off the snake.”
State Representative Travis Clardy, who was also listed as a potential target in the same recording, has not openly urged for Bonnen’s resignation but he stated on Tuesday that the House Speaker had done “irrevocable damage” to the Republican caucus. Clardy said that he is looking forward to the Republican caucus’ retreat this weekend, which is the first meeting of Republican House members since the scandal came out three months ago.
On Wednesday afternoon, State Representative Tony Tinderholt released a statement asking Bonnen to resign. “The Texas House cannot tolerate deception from our leaders,” he said. “While an investigation is currently underway, it is not up to the Texas Rangers to decide whether Dennis Bonnen is fit to remain Speaker of the House. Regardless of their findings, I (along with many constituents in House District 94) feel he should resign.”
State Representative Ernest Bailes proclaimed on Wednesday that he was disappointed with Texas House leadership and “I will not stand for it.”
State Representative Tan Parker also demanded Bonnen’s resignation. In a statement Parker commented, “If we cannot honor our commitments as elected officials between each other, I am not sure how the Texas House upholds the trust of the people of Texas.” He continued, “We need to restore the confidence in leadership, and I believe speaker Bonnen should resign in order for the House to heal and move forward.”
The 2019 legislative session was a disaster for Texas conservatives as key legislation such as Constitutional Carry was killed without even receiving a hearing let alone a vote.
Texas remains relatively pro-gun, but Republicans cannot afford to rest on their laurels given how competitive the state is becoming.
The 2020 elections will be a major litmus for conservatives statewide. Texas cannot afford any more mediocre session where key planks of the Republican Party are completely ignored by Texas leadership.
Texas Political Establishment Attempts to Derail Shelley Luther’s Campaign
The special election for Texas’ Senate District 30 is on pace to be one of the most heated races in the Lone Star State.
At a candidate forum on September 18, 2020, Shelley Luther, the Dallas salon owner who was jailed for opening her business in defiance of Governor Greg Abbott’s shutdown order, confronted outgoing State Senator Pat Fallon.
Fallon vacated his seat and is now backing a successor in State Representative Drew Springer.
“We don’t want somebody who’s going to be at odds with our Republican governor,” Fallon said September 18 at the Grayson County Republican Women’s Club.
I didn’t support some of the things that he has done about opening up. … So, he’s made some mistakes. He’s our Republican governor, the 80/20 rule … because you’re not going to get any bills passed unless the governor signs them.
“Let me make something clear. I am accountable to my fellow citizens in Senate District 30. Not our Governor,” Luther responded on September 19 on Facebook:
This is exactly what is wrong with Austin. Our politicians are more loyal to Abbott than us, even when they disagree with him.
I will work with Governor Abbott when he is fighting to protect the liberty of Texans, and I will oppose him when he pushes unilateral dictates that shut down our local businesses.
Fallon and Luther had a tense exchange, which was caught on video.
“You want me to go all in on this race?” Fallon questioned Luther. “I have been 5 percent in on this race. You want me to go all in on it, I’m welcome to.”
“This has become a straight-up fight between Abbott and the ‘Kumbaya’ Professional Political Class vs. the grassroots and people who remember what limited government and principles should look like,” opined conservative activist Mike Openshaw.
“Respectfully, being willing to be jailed for fighting over-reaching government shows principle; that counts for something, Patrick,” Openshaw continued.
Luther has recently received endorsements from conservative Collin County Judge Chris Hill and Young Conservatives of Texas. Springer, on the other hand, received an endorsement from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which asserted that Luther was going down a “far right” path.
A Republican is expected to carry the senate district, which may still require a runoff if the leading candidate does not get enough votes during the first round of the special election.
Election Day will be on September 29.
Luther is viewed as the truly conservative option and many believe she could help break the political status quo in Austin that has kept conservative legislation from ever being passed.
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