LAKE JACKSON, Texas—A longtime Texas House lawmaker is facing his first re-election challenge this decade as a local conservative activist seeks to hold him accountable.
State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R–Angleton) was first elected to the Texas House more than twenty years ago in 1996 as a conservative. But like most politicians who opt for extended stays in Austin, Bonnen’s record has been a mixed bag at best and it’s been on the decline.
In the past session, Bonnen was the lead executioner for State Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s (R–Houston) property tax reform bill—which was backed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick—not just once, but twice. In the regular session, Bonnen successfully slow-walked the bill to ensure the clock ran out just before they could get it over the finish line, and in the special session he watered it down such that it was little more than a hollow shell as a result of a deal he cut with House Speaker Joe Straus.
Unsurprisingly, Bonnen’s bad performance on property tax reform and other issues has drawn him a challenger in the Republican primary: Damon Rambo.
A cowboy hat-wearing conservative activist, a quick conversation with Rambo reveals he’s quite the Renaissance man and may be one of the most interesting candidates of the 2018 election cycle. Even the biography page on his website reads like a Dos Equis commercial.
“I was born in Liberty County Texas to a wonderful mother and a father who was a construction worker and a veteran. They instilled in me a sense of duty and hard work. For 14 years, I followed in my father’s footsteps, ‘hanging iron’ and covering buildings in petrochemical plants across Texas.
During this time, I was called to the ministry and my whole life changed. I currently pastor the First Baptist Church in Markham, Texas.
I have a beautiful wife, three children, and two wonderful grandchildren. I run a small photography and videography business on the side, and in my spare time I am working on my pilot’s license. I hold a Master’s Degree from Liberty University, and I am a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.”
Rambo told Texas Scorecard he was running for the Texas House because voters in his district deserve a conservative alternative.
“Dennis Bonnen is just another politician who has been in office too long and his record is out of touch with the citizens here in this district,” said Rambo. “I’m running to give voters a choice and tell them the truth about the votes he takes in Austin.”
To that end, Rambo is hard at work—having personally knocked over 3,500 doors in House District 25—and his efforts have not been taken lightly.
According to activists on the ground, Bonnen has sent more than 14 mailers to the district already and is expected to do even more. Meanwhile, sources in Austin claim that Bonnen would be considered a leading candidate should he enter the race for Speaker of the Texas House, but that he’s been too preoccupied in his own backyard to attempt a statewide campaign.
A safe Republican district, the battle between Bonnen and Rambo will decide who enters the Texas House in 2019.
This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.
Zach Maxwell contributed to this report.