Analyzing 2019: The fall of a Texas House speaker
Dennis Bonnen entered the race for speaker of the Texas House late, after other candidates had faltered, and locked it up quickly. He took office in January, helped steer what had been a cantankerous Legislature through passage of major school finance and property tax legislation, gaveled out the end of the session and won praise for the results.
A couple of weeks after the session, he held an ill-fated meeting with a political activist and critic of the Legislature’s work and, over the course of an hour-long conversation, undid his chances of winning a second term. Bonnen was critical of many of his fellow Republican members, of local officials from around the state and more — and it was all captured in a recording made by that activist, Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans.
When the recording was made public months later, Bonnen’s chance at another term was gone. He didn’t file as a candidate for reelection in 2020, meaning there will be a new member representing his district, and a new speaker presiding.
A political activist accused House Speaker Dennis Bonnen of trying to undermine the campaigns of 10 members of his own party, an allegation that — true or not — could ruin the goodwill Bonnen built up in a successful legislative session earlier this year.
The crisis around Bonnen is heating up as newly revealed recordings add some credence to allegations that he and a trusted lieutenant plotted with a political activist against some GOP House members. Will his members believe him — or his accuser?
If the members of the Texas House are still on Speaker Dennis Bonnen's side after they know just what he said to a political activist in a secretly recording meeting, he'll keep his job. It comes down to trust.
In May, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen was at the top of the political world. In terms of influence, Michael Quinn Sullivan and his Empower Texans organization was near the bottom. And now?
The long-awaited recording of the meeting between the House speaker and a political operative is now out — and as turns out, Michael Quinn Sullivan's account was mostly on the nose.
The Texas House speaker was always going to leave sometime. But his departure could come much sooner than expected.
2019 Texas Tribune