Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen is reportedly putting lawmakers on notice: Campaign against incumbents, and you will be punished.
In a media interview earlier this week, Bonnen said he was instituting a policy of banning members from engaging in electoral campaigns against each other, preventing legislators from endorsing, financially contributing, or otherwise assisting in races against incumbent members.
“If members of the Legislature are out campaigning against each other, you then don’t accomplish things like that because you bring the elections into the legislative process, and you don’t get over the wounds and the battles,” said Bonnen. “And then people turn into Washington, and you’re simply here to legislate on politics, not on policy and not on accomplishment of success.”
This is a notable departure from precedent in the last few legislative sessions, where even Gov. Greg Abbott took the extraordinary step of endorsing in primary elections against liberal Republicans in the legislature, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supported then-State Rep. Pat Fallon (R–Prosper) in his successful primary challenge against State Sen. Craig Estes (R–Wichita Falls).
But more even shocking is the fact that Bonnen’s admonition doesn’t just apply to intra-party primary elections; he’s talking about the general election too, with the Houston Chronicle reporting that “the warning applies to members of both parties and those who serve as party chairs.”
That could have disastrous effects for Republicans in 2020.
With Republicans losing 12 seats in the last election, and holding a narrow 83-67 majority in the Texas House this session, members following Bonnen’s demand would be banned from contributing to Republican candidates in swing districts or otherwise endorsing efforts to grow their majority.
If they do, Bonnen says he would “publicly come out against members who take part and penalize them in the next legislative session.”
This development is even more interesting in light of recent comments made by Bonnen praising Democrat State Rep. Joe Moody (El Paso), telling a reporter, “I think Texas would be very blessed if there was a Democrat majority and Joe Moody wanted to lead the House.”
After a legislative session in which the priorities of the Republican Party of Texas were stymied, conservative Texans have to wonder whether “keeping Texas red” is a priority for Bonnen at all.