One of the first candidates to enter the race to succeed outgoing Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is calling it quits, and a longtime rumored candidate may finally enter the race.
Late Sunday night, State Rep. John Zerwas (R–Richmond) announced he would be withdrawing from the race.
“I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to engage with the members of the House. The honest conversations are critical to the relationships I have, and I am honored to work with such principled leaders,” said Zerwas in a statement. “While I believe that I could lead the House through a successful 2019 session, it has come time for me to end my bid for Speaker and wholly focus on writing the budget for the 2020-2021 biennium.”
Zerwas was the second candidate to enter the race, jumping in only hours after Straus announced his decision not to run for re-election. First elected in 2006, Zerwas served as a loyal member of the coalition government Straus used to run the chamber—most recently serving as the chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
According to rumors, Zerwas’ decision to exit the race comes as the result of an informal meeting of roughly 40 House Republicans in Austin where they cast ballots for their preferred Speaker candidate. Zerwas apparently fared poorly on such balloting, perhaps due to vote splitting with other coalition candidates such as State Reps. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo) and Travis Clardy (R–Nacogdoches).
But one individual reportedly performed well despite not even being present: State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Brazoria).
The Speaker Pro-Tem and the chairman of the committee on Ways and Means, Bonnen has been an influential member of the Texas House for some time and one many Capitol observers believed would campaign for the seat, either as the Republican caucus nominee or through building another such Democrat-Republican coalition.
Bonnen has neither signed the pledge to support the nominee of the Republican caucus on the House floor nor filed as an official candidate.