Embattled Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Won’t Seek Re-Election

October 23, 2019by Nicole Cobler
Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen of Lake Jackson, Texas bangs the gavel on opening day of the 86th Texas legislature on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at the Texas state Capitol, in Austin, Texas. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election.

His decision to not seek another term comes after a secret recording, released by conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, captured Bonnen offering media credentials in exchange for Sullivan targeting “moderate” Republican House members in the 2020 GOP primary.

“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 written statement, which included a list of 43 House Republicans that “have made clear that it is in the best interest of both myself and the House to move on.”

Bonnen did not say whether he would keep his seat, and the speakership, for the remainder of his term, which runs through the convening of the next session in January 2021.

The 43 Republicans include his brother, Dr. Greg Bonnen of Friendswood and former Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland, who stayed in the House after he was deposed as speaker and replaced by Bonnen’s predecessor, Joe Straus. The list also includes Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth, who chairs the House Republican Caucus, and state Rep. Jim Murphy of Houston, who was elected vice chairman of the caucus as a Bonnen loyalist in midst of the controversy that has now cost him his speakership.

Hours before his announcement, top Republicans in the House released a statement saying they no longer want Bonnen to serve as speaker.

State Reps. Dan Huberty of Houston, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Four Price of Amarillo, Chris Paddie of Marshall and John Frullo of Lubbock said the secret recording of Bonnen released last week by Sullivan “damaged the reputation of the House and relationships among individual members.”

Following a House Republican Caucus meeting on Friday, the caucus issued a statement condemning Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, the former House GOP Caucus chair.

The caucus had been informed by its counsel that there is no precedent or mechanism for replacing a speaker when the House is not in session. Gov. Greg Abbott could call a special session of the Legislature to give the House an opportunity to do that, but there has been no appetite for a special session from the governor or Republican members of the House.

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©2019 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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