In dueling radio interviews Thursday, candidates for chairman of the Republican Party of Texas didn’t agree about the 2020 electoral consequences of the now-released audio heard ‘cross the state.
Conversation in political circles this week has centered on the controversial June 12 meeting between Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, former Republican House Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows (Lubbock), and Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan. The audio recording of that meeting, now available to the public on this site, has substantiated claims Sullivan made midsummer about Bonnen making him a quid pro quo offer.
Since the recording’s release, public statements regarding the backroom offer are finally emerging from elected officials and candidates, including RPT Chair James Dickey and his opponent, Allen West.
In an interview with conservative talk-radio host Chris Salcedo Thursday morning, West had a warning for Republicans ahead of the monumental elections to be held in just over a year’s time; however, West first reminded Salcedo he had called for Bonnen to step down weeks ago.
“You and I have talked about this subject long before this tape was made public, and I said that he needs to step down, he needs to resign,” West said. “And it’s up to the voters in his state representative district, state house district, whether or not they want him to be their representative; but he should not be in a leadership position.”
Then came the warning.
“This is not about Dennis Bonnen, this is about the State of Texas,” West said. “This is about the State House, and we cannot afford to lose more State House seats like we did in 2018, when we lost 12.”
Salcedo mentioned the “other side” is already making political hay with the news of Republican corruption, which is now grabbing national headlines.
“If [Bonnen] remains in position—if Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick allow him to remain in that position—then there will be severe consequences and ramifications in 2020 going forward,” West replied, “because he would be the face of the Republican Party of Texas, and everyone would have to defend him and talk about him, and that’s not what we should be doing.”
Later Thursday morning, Dickey was on a West Texas radio show to answer similar questions regarding the audio’s release. However, he said he does not believe the audio will have an impact on the upcoming elections:
“Um, I don’t. I’ve listened to the recording. The transparency I’ve been asking for, and have always fought for all of my career, appears to finally have seen the light of day. We trust the Texas Rangers are doing their job to investigate, and the House Republican Caucus is meeting this week. I am hopeful that we will get a quick resolution.”
“As the head of the party,” Dickey continued, “I looked very carefully at this and thought very carefully about this … what is the soundbite in there that a Democrat’s going to use to fight against anybody getting re-elected, or anybody getting elected in Texas? I don’t see the soundbite that helps them win an election.”
A wary warning. A docile downplay. With the two men running for the post atop the Republican Party of Texas seemingly at odds over the severity of the situation at hand, it remains to be seen which perspective will prove accurate.
Members of the Texas House Republican Caucus will have a say at their Friday meeting in Austin, where they will decide what action, if any, they take regarding the speaker. Many have already indicated Bonnen should resign. Delegates to the RPT’s next convention, on the other hand, will have their say about which candidate leads the Republican Party of Texas to the polls much closer to November of next year.