After calls from lawmakers for him to step aside ramped up, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced early Tuesday morning that he would not seek re-election.
“After much prayer, consultation, and thoughtful consideration with my family, it is clear I can no longer seek re-election as State Representative of District 25, and subsequently, as Speaker of the House,” he said in a statement which made no mention of the backroom scandal he finds himself wrapped up in.
It was revealed earlier this summer that, during a meeting with Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan, Bonnen, with the assistance of State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock), offered media credentials to Empower Texans in exchange for the political targeting of certain Republican members. Bonnen also insisted that he and Burrows not be targeted in the 2020 primary by Sullivan’s organization.
Prior to the audio’s public release, Bonnen and Burrows claimed they did not offer a quid pro quo or provide a hit list of Republicans to Sullivan.
Full audio of that meeting, which was released last week, proved Bonnen and Burrows lied in their repeated denials. The audio also contained lewd language about several House members and took shots at local government officials, surprising many legislators who are often exceedingly deferential to local politicians in their districts.
This led to a statement put out by the Republican Caucus after a meeting in Austin on Friday, in which they condemned Bonnen’s language but made no mention of the quid pro quo offer. That statement rang hollow with grassroots citizens, who made their displeasure known to lawmakers over the weekend, causing many to distance themselves from the caucus’ soft statement and issue stronger calls of their own for Bonnen to step down.
In an email shortly after Bonnen’s announcement Tuesday that he would not seek re-election, Sullivan lamented the unethical behavior of Bonnen as a cautionary example.
“Dennis Bonnen could have behaved ethically from the start in his dealings with his fellow lawmakers, with me, and with the Texas public,” said Sullivan. “He could have recanted his unethical offer privately when given the opportunity. He instead chose lies, deceit, dishonor, and – ultimately – ruin.
“He has gone from the third-ranking constitutional officer in Texas to a cautionary tale about the dangers of political hubris.”
While Bonnen has said he will not run for re-election, he did not say whether he would ultimately resign, as many lawmakers have called on him to do.