I believe it is fair to wonder about a possible element in the shocking downfall of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.
The lame-duck speaker and a right-wing zealot had this conversation in June in which the zealot, Michael Quinn Sullivan, received the names of 10 Republican legislators he could target in the 2020 legislative election.
I do not know Bonnen or Sullivan. I have understood, though, that they are not considered political allies. Therefore, here’s my question:
Did Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, lure Bonnen into a trap that he sprung when he released the recording of the conversation the men had several months ago? The recording went public, Bonnen’s words were revealed to stunned legislators, many of whom called for his resignation; Bonnen then decided he won’t seek re-election in 2020. He is done as speaker of the Texas House.
How in the world did this meeting occur? What kind of politician — other than someone who adheres to the rigid ideology espoused by Empower Texans — make such an agreement?
Bonnen’s decision to step away after the current term has brought some praise from media outlets and politicians who have talked of the speaker’s sense of principle.
Was he snookered somehow by Sullivan? For that matter, why did Sullivan feel the need to record that conversation?
My sense is that a bare-knuckled political operative records conversations surreptitiously for nefarious reasons.
I watched Sullivan’s tactics unfold during a couple of Texas Senate campaigns in the Panhandle over two election cycles. He sought to topple state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. He failed both times by running the same TEA Party-favorite candidate — Mike Canon of Midland — against Seliger. He played rough. So did Canon. Seliger was able to use his considerable knowledge of legislative matters to maximum advantage.
He won the GOP nomination in 2018, even though he also had to run against a third archconservative, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, in the primary.
Seliger calls himself a conservative. He is proud of his conservative voting record and his conservative political views. He just isn’t conservative enough to suit Sullivan.
I am wondering, therefore, if Dennis Bonnen falls into that category and that Sullivan wants a House speaker to emerge from the GOP ranks who follows the same extreme ideology as he does.
As the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen once said, “Politics in Texas is a contact sport.”