KETR

Piece of Mind: Speaker Bonnen Should Just Go Ahead and Quit

Oct 18, 2019

Dennis Bonnen is toast as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

If not, though, the Angleton Republican should be toast. As in, he appears to be losing favor with Republicans who comprise most of the lawmakers in the Texas House. Pressure is building for Bonnen to resign his speakership; I won’t endorse a notion that he quit the House, given that his role in the Legislature is up to the voters who sent him there.

The speakership is another matter. He became speaker at the start of the 2019 Legislature because a majority of House members voted him in.

Then we have learned something else about Speaker Bonnen. He talks out of both sides of his mouth, which isn’t entirely uncommon among politicians. Except that Bonnen, who proclaimed publicly that he respects all of his legislative colleagues, has been caught saying some quite different to a right-wing zealot who runs a right-wing political action committee called Empower Texans.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, the Empower Texans godfather, recorded a conversation he had with Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, the former head of the Texas House GOP caucus. In that conversation, which Sullivan only recently released to the public, Bonnen offered Sullivan the names of 10 GOP legislators who Sullivan wants removed from the Legislature. Sullivan would campaign against these individuals, or field extremist candidates more suitable to his extreme right-wing views.

Oh, and then we learned that Bonnen offered Empower Texans media credentials that would enable its lobbying team onto the House floor, with direct access to House members. Nice!

Bonnen at first denied saying some nasty things about these legislators. Then he backed off the denial, offering an apology for saying mean things.

Now we hear that Sullivan was right, that Bonnen did give up the 10 legislative colleagues, offering them as sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered – proverbially, of course – by Empower Texans.

This is the kind of conduct that destroys trust. It wipes it out. Finishes it off. It makes it virtually impossible for someone implicated in the underhanded double-dealing that has fallen on Bonnen to rebuild that trust.

I don’t know how the speaker can regain that trust. At least a dozen Republican lawmakers have called him to quit, along with some Democratic members. In actuality, it’s the GOP caucus that should be furious with the speaker, who vowed to take a more moderate course for governing as he led the House’s legislative agenda.

It turns out the speaker wasn’t who he said he was when he got the job.

Is he toast? He certainly should be.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.