Tag Archives: Dennis Bonnen

Hit the road, Mr. Speaker

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen should be toast.

The Angleton Republican, who took possession of the speaker’s gavel at the start of the 2019 Texas Legislature, has managed to accomplish a rare feat: He has destroyed the trust he built among his fellow Republicans by climbing into the proverbial sack with a right-wing zealot with whom he reportedly had serious differences of opinion. In the process, he has given up the names of at least 10 GOP legislators whom the zealot could target in the next election.

Hit the road, Mr. Speaker, before your colleagues boot you out at the start of the next Legislature.

The issue is a meeting among Bonnen, former Texas House GOP chair Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and aforementioned right-wing fanatic Michael Quinn Sullivan, who leads Empower Texans, a political action committee. Sullivan had said he recorded the meeting and this week he produced the goods.

It ain’t looking good for Speaker Bonnen.

One of the lawmakers he targeted, Phil Stephenson of Wharton, said it is “time to cut the head off the snake.” Stephenson also said he believes 35 to 40 fellow Republicans are going to demand that Bonnen quit the speakership.

Bonnen and Sullivan talked about the speaker granting Empower Texans House floor access, an unusual arrangement under normal circumstances. Bonnen also reportedly delivered the names of 10 GOP legislators who, according to the recording, were a bit troublesome for the speaker. I guess they were, um, too moderate to suit his taste and certainly the taste of Sullivan, who demands that all legislators adhere to Empower Texans’ rigid right-wing ideology.

This ain’t good governance. Not even close.

You see, the speaker of the House isn’t just the leader of the party to which he or she belongs. The speaker should have cordial — if not warm — political relationships across the broad spectrum represented in the legislative chamber.

Bonnen has squandered all of that through his initial dissembling and then through the revelation that Sullivan was essentially correct, that the speaker betrayed his legislative colleagues.

It turns out that speaker isn’t the top-drawer statesman he portrayed himself as being. He’s a right-wing shill.

Adios, sayonara … b’bye, Mr. Speaker.

Right-wing zealot was right about what happened with Speaker Bonnen

I detest the politics of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, the right-wing political action committee that seeks to yank the Texas political structure even farther to the right … if that is even possible.

Still, we now know that what Sullivan said about Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — that the speaker was willing to give up 10 House Republicans while granting a political favor for Empower Texans — was correct.

Sullivan released the full text of a recorded conversation he and Bonnen had earlier this year. Bonnen had denied the contents of what Sullivan had alleged; then he kinda/sorta backed off and apologized to House members he insulted.

As the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey reported in his analysis, Bonnen now becomes a potentially vulnerable House speaker: “But that political discussion, as Bonnen calls it, was fraught with underhanded scheming, given Bonnen’s constituents — the other 149 members of the Texas House — everything they need to replace, if that’s what they’d like to do.”

This revelation disappoints me. I had hoped that Bonnen might continue the tradition of moderate leadership set by his immediate predecessor, former GOP state Rep. Joe Straus. Silly me. It now turns out he can be had, as Sullivan’s recording has revealed.

He agreed to give Sullivan the names of 10 Republican lawmakers who Sullivan’s group could target in next year’s election. Empower Texans also would be granted media credentials, giving the PAC access to legislators on the House floor.

If I were a Republican lawmaker — even if my name wasn’t one of those given to Sullivan — I would be, shall we say, really pi**ed off!

Speaker Bonnen appears to have squandered the trust he sought from his GOP caucus in the House.

I won’t predict this will happen, but count me as one Texas resident who wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Texas House finds a new speaker in January 2021.

Texas intra-GOP fight mirrors national struggle

I might be alone in thinking this, but my sense is that Texas’s Republican Party squabbles involving the speaker of the House and a right-wing political activist is mirroring part of the national struggle that is engulfing the GOP.

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has been caught giving up the names of 10 GOP House members to a right-wing nut-job, Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans.

Many within the Republican Party want Sullivan to release the contents of the recorded meeting he had with Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, the former head of the Texas House GOP caucus.

What’s curious here is that Sullivan wants to torpedo “establishment” Republicans, replacing them with ideologues such as himself. He’s tried this for some time. Indeed, he and Bonnen and aren’t exactly BFFs.

Why might this mirror what is occurring nationally?

The nation’s Republican Party has been hijacked, tied up and held hostage by Donald Trump and his cabal of supporters. The parallel with Texas isn’t exactly precise, given that most establishment national Republican officeholders so far have been reticent about speaking against the president. Trump has bullied them into silence.

He’s even persuaded former harsh critics — such as U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — to performing as lap dogs who lick the president’s fingers whenever possible.

However, there remains a stable of actual Republicans — the men and women who continue to stand on principle — who gnash their teeth, grumble ever more loudly and actually speak out critically against the president.

Trump now has a potential field of three GOP challengers who will run against him for the 2020 party presidential nomination.

Neither struggle — whether in Texas or on the national stage — is easy to handicap. I don’t know whether Speaker Bonnen will survive the embarrassment of his offering the names of 10 of his colleagues as targets for the Empower Texans guru; I have moved from supporting Bonnen as the Man of the House to no longer giving a crap about his political future.

As for the national struggle, I want it to accelerate. I want the establishment Republicans to rise up and to do whatever they can to get rid of a president who disgraces his office every day he awakens in the White House.

Release the recording, Empower Texans guru … now!

Ross Ramsey, one of the top guns at the Texas Tribune, has it exactly right. Empower Texans main man, Michael Quinn Sullivan, needs to release the full recording of a meeting he allegedly had with two key Texas legislative Republicans.

Do it now, Sullivan!

Ramsey has noted the “drip, drip, drip” nature of Sullivan’s assertion that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen offered him the names of 10 House Republicans in exchange for media credentials for Empower Texans to the floor of the House. The names would be used by Empower Texans as targets for the far-right political action committee that Sullivan heads.

He’s had it in for establishment Republicans for about a decade, Ramsey writes in the Tribune. He and Bonnen aren’t exactly pals. Neither is he cozy with state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the recently resigned chairman of the Texas House GOP caucus; Burrows remains chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

The three of them took part in some mysterious meeting. All we know is what Sullivan has said about it. Bonnen has been all over the pea patch, at first denying it happened and then apologizing for the remarks he made about his fellow House Republicans.

I am as curious as others are about that meeting. I don’t trust Michael Quinn Sullivan as far as I can toss my fifth wheel, given what I know about his rigid right-wing philosophy and his penchant for targeting “mainstream” Republican legislators, which is what he sought to do in the 2018 GOP primary in the Texas Panhandle.

He ought to release the recording for the public to hear and for the public to determine who’s telling the truth.

So what if the truth is as Sullivan has stated?

Read Ross Ramsey’s analysis here.

Inquiring minds want to know who said what to whom.

Have the stakes risen as Texas prepares to vote in 2020?

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen appears to have made a big mistake. Whether he has inflicted a mortal wound on the Texas Republican Party remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that the stakes for the 2020 election in Texas might have risen exponentially as Bonnen tries to repair the damage done by a reportedly secret meeting with a high-powered, ultra-conservative political activist. In that meeting, Bonnen — an Angleton Republican — allegedly offered up the names of 10 GOP lawmakers that the activist, Michael Quinn Sullivan, could defeat in exchange for press credentials inside the House chamber.

Sullivan runs that far-right outfit called Empower Texans. I detest Empower Texans. So do many other Texans, even many Republicans.

Bonnen became speaker at the start of the 2019 Legislature with a reputation as something of a GOP moderate. I guess he can be had, right? Yep. Apparently so.

So now it becomes questionable whether the Texas House might flip from Republican to Democratic control after the 2020 election. Democrats need to flip nine House seats next year to win control of the lower legislative chamber.

I am one Texan who isn’t of the Republican ilk, although I have a few GOP lawmakers I count as friends; they are people I respect and for whom I have personal affection. I doubt strongly any of them would be in danger of losing their seats in 2020.

That all said, Bonnen’s reported deal to provide the names of 10 fellow Republicans to Hatchetman Sullivan isn’t playing well among Republican circles. It’s also giving Democrats ammo to use against their GOP foes as they seek to campaign for control of the Texas House of Representatives.

This tumult also might put Bonnen’s speakership in jeopardy. He took the gavel from former Republican Speaker Joe Straus, who didn’t seek re-election in 2018. I admired Straus’s leadership of the House and his commitment to stand firm against the likes of Empower Texans and Michael Quinn Sullivan. I just wish Bonnen had shown the same courage as Straus.

Texas is now seen as a potential battleground state on the presidential election level. Democrats might have actual, tangible and demonstrable reason for optimism that they can control at least one legislative chamber as they prepare for the 2020 election.

Texas House tumult claims a victim

The tumult surrounding Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s recorded conversation with a right-wing rabble rouser has claimed its first victim.

Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Lance Burrows of Lubbock has resigned his leadership post. He was allegedly caught taking part in some secret conversations involving Burrows and Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, who reportedly were targeting some House Republicans for defeat in the next election cycle.

What’s more, the Texas Rangers are now involved, investigating whether there might be some campaign law violations associated with this apparently growing mess.

Bonnen at first denied taking part in the conversation with Sullivan, with whom he has had a testy relationship. He has since apologized to his fellow legislative Republicans for the things he said about them. Bonnen wants Sullivan to release the entire conversation, apparently thinking its full context might explain what the men were discussing. Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad the Rangers are involved. We need to find out what happened, who said what to whom and what precisely this clown, Sullivan, was intending to do with the information being pledged to him by Bonnen … allegedly.

I had some hopes that the new speaker would continue the kind of leadership demonstrated by Joe Straus of San Antonio, who left the Legislature at the end of 2018. Silly me. It appears my hopes have been dashed, if what we hear turns out to be correct.

The idea that the speaker, reportedly a moderate-to-conservative politician would hold hands with a far-right ideologue such as Sullivan, for whom many mainstream Texas Republicans have considerable loathing, is repugnant on its face.

Bonnen’s role in this once-secret conversation has angered a lot of GOP House members. To which I say: Perhaps a change in the House speakership well might be in order.

If anyone is interested in some names to replace Bonnen, I can think of a couple of fellows from up yonder in the Panhandle who I believe would work out just fine.

Four Price or John Smithee, are you available?

Speaker Bonnen, you might have blown it royally!

I was willing to give Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen the benefit of the doubt when he sought the office after Joe Straus left the Legislature at the beginning of the year.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, was thought by many to be a politician who is able to work with pols from both sides of the aisle in Austin.

But now … it turns out he might have double-crossed members of his own GOP caucus, if we are to believe ultra right-winger Michael Quinn Sullivan, the godfather of Empower Texans, the political action committee he founded. Sullivan reportedly has revealed that Bonnen agreed to offer Empower Texans the names of 10 GOP lawmakers the right wingers could target in the 2020 election.

Would Speaker Straus have done such a thing? Or Speaker Tom Craddick? Or Speaker Pete Laney? Or Speaker Gib Lewis?

I doubt it strongly! Yet we now have evidence, apparently, of collusion (there’s that word again) between Speaker Bonnen and a right-wing outfit that has sought to yank the Legislature even farther to the right than it already stands.

Betrayal anyone?

This is a disgraceful betrayal if it turns out to be true. There’s something credible-sounding about what has been revealed so far.

Sullivan has talked about a meeting he had with Bonnen in which the speaker made the offer to hand over the names of legislators that would show up on Empower Texans’ hit list. Bonnen has said publicly he wanted to work for the re-election of all GOP lawmakers. The Sullivan account contradicts Bonnen and many of Bonnen’s legislative colleagues are buying into what Sullivan is saying.

This looks for all the world like dirty pool. It looks also to me that Speaker Bonnen’s time with his hands on the House gavel might come to an end when the next Legislature convenes in January 2021.

This is particularly troubling for me on a personal level, given my own intense distrust of Empower Texans and of Michael Quinn Sullivan. Empower Texans has sought to unseat at least two Republican legislators with whom I have a high personal and professional regard. I refer to two men from Amarillo, state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price.

They both got “primaried” in 2018, only to beat back those challenges with relative ease. Both men’s GOP primary opponents were recruited and funded by Empower Texans, which seeks to push an ultra-conservative legislative agenda throughout Texas.

So, for Speaker Dennis Bonnen to crawl into the political sack with these clowns — allegedly! — is distasteful on its face.

Rep. Price gets handed a very large gavel

It’s clear that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick didn’t give state Sen. Kel Seliger any love when he handed out committee assignments for the 2019 Texas Senate.

He yanked the Amarillo Republican out of the chairmanship of the Senate Higher Education Committee, pulled him off the Senate Education Committee and off the Finance Committee. Patrick “awarded” Seliger the Agriculture Committee chairmanship then snatched that one away when Seliger made an impolite comment about a key Patrick adviser.

Now, what about the Texas House of Representatives? Well, Speaker Dennis Bonnen has handed out a gigantic gavel to state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican.

Price will chair the House Calendars Committee. It’s a big deal, man! Here’s why: The Calendars Committee determines the legislative flow; the chairman is able to stop legislation from being considered by the full House. OK, so it’s more of a procedural panel than a policy-making one. But . . . it carries huge responsibility in determining how the House does its business.

I used to know a previous Calendars chairman quite well. State Rep. Mark Stiles was a Beaumont Democrat who chaired that panel in the 1980s. Stiles, who no longer serves in the Legislature, was quite proud of the influence he had in controlling legislative traffic. Stiles also was quite fond of reminding anyone who would listen that he was good friends with the House speaker, the lieutenant governor, the governor. You name it, anyone with real power in Austin was a BFF of the legislator who nicknamed himself “Bubba.”

I mention this because I don’t expect Rep. Four Price to carry on in that fashion. He’s a more, um, humble individual who seems — as I have known him — to take his public service far more seriously than he takes himself.

Bathroom Bill is dead, but Lt. Gov. Patrick declares victory

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has found a curious way of declaring victory even when he clearly loses a key political battle.

Strange, but true.

Patrick said today he sees no need to resurrect the Bathroom Bill that died a much-needed death in the 2017 special legislative session. You remember this one, right? It would have discriminated against transgender individuals by requiring people to use public restrooms according to the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate.

In other words, if you were born a male but have changed your gender to female, you still have to use the men’s restroom; and vice versa. It’s a virtually unenforceable notion, but the Texas Senate approved it anyway. Thanks to the courage shown by then-House Speaker Joe Straus, the Bathroom Bill went nowhere in the special session.

But . . . Lt. Gov. Patrick has declared victory anyway!

“When you win the battle you don’t have to fight the battle again,” Patrick said in a press conference with Gov. Greg Abbott and the brand new Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Then, according to the Texas Tribune, he said that the school district “behavior that necessitated the action has stopped.”

So he declared victory!

Very good, Lt. Gov. Patrick. Except that you lost! Count me as a Texan who is glad that Patrick’s will didn’t become law in Texas.

The 2019 Legislature that just convened has many more important matters to ponder. They deal with taxes and human trafficking. How about water management? Or perhaps investing in alternative energy development? Then there’s public education and public higher education.

The Bathroom Bill need not return to the legislative agenda.

Not ever!

Speaker Bonnen sets constructive legislative agenda

Texas has a new speaker of the state House of Representatives.

Dennis Bonnen of Angleton is a Republican who says he doesn’t believe in “sugarcoating” issues. He says he calls ’em the way he sees ’em. “I am direct and I am a problem solver,” Bonnen said.

A new legislative era begins

But he also apparently is more interested in substantive matters than he is in some of the more cultural issues that came out of the Texas Senate in 2017.

Public school finance is Speaker Bonnen’s first priority, followed by human trafficking and property tax collection reform.

Bonnen succeeds Joe Straus as speaker. Straus, a San Antonio Republican, decided to step aside and not seek re-election in 2018. I am one Texan who is grateful, though, for Straus’s resistance to the Senate approval of that ridiculous Bathroom Bill, which required people using public restrooms to use those facilities that comport with the gender on their birth certificate. It discriminated against transgender individuals and Straus would have none of it.

Speaker Straus managed to scuttle the Bathroom Bill during the Legislature’s special session in the summer of 2017, angering Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, under whose watch the Senate approved the bill.

The new speaker’s legislative agenda suggests he is going to travel along the same path as his predecessor — to which I offer a salute.

Good luck, Mr. Speaker. May the new Man of the House lead the legislative chamber with wisdom and reason.