Just hours before the end of the 86th Legislative Session, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen gave a nod and a wink to a top-ranking Democrat in the Texas House. Now some are scratching their heads, wondering if his glowing review of a would-be Democrat speaker is a hedge on the outcome of next year’s general elections.
In an interview over the weekend with an Austin newspaper, Bonnen candidly spoke in high regard of one of his top lieutenants in the Texas House, Speaker Pro Tempore and House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman, State Rep. Joe Moody (D–El Paso).
“I think Texas would be very blessed if there was a Democrat majority and Joe Moody wanted to lead the House,” Bonnen said in the interview. “Joe Moody is an exceptional leader, and he has had an extraordinary session leading this session. I’m very lucky to have had him as speaker pro tempore, and he worked day and night to make the House work.”
Moody was the youngest state representative in Texas when he was first elected in 2008. Now, more than a decade later, Moody is a veteran of the Texas House and a top-ranking Democrat in the caucus. He would be one of a handful of Democrats potentially able to coalesce the support of colleagues and earn the speakership, but only if Democrats take the majority or are willing to snag the support of a small number of Republicans to earn the votes. Neither is out of the question at this point, with politicos and consultants already clamoring about the future of the state and the possible changing of the guard in the Texas House next year.
Following what has been described in Austin as a lackluster legislative session, the 86th was promised to be a “Boomsday” fireworks display of Republican accomplishment to campaign on in the looming, frightful 2020 election season, but sadly it panned out to be little more than a mouthful of Pop Rocks. Republicans advanced little in the way of tangible results on priority issues for lawmakers to hit their districts in stride ahead of campaign season. The speculation that 2020 could be the most contentious statewide election in two decades is growing stronger, and Democrats have already hired field staff to run the ground games of campaigns across the state.
Bonnen’s endorsement of Moody could be a hedge for establishment veterans in Austin looking to get a head start on shoring up support for their chosen insider and securing the status quo, should the state’s lower chamber change hands before gaveling in for the 87th in January of 2021. But even if it’s not, at the very least, it’s an honest endorsement of the “job well done” by the speaker’s regime, self-congratulating a “mission accomplished session” of keeping conservative reforms and priority bills at bay and off the governor’s desk.