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.