Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen won’t be returning to the chamber next session.
In a statement he released Tuesday, Bonnen wrote: “After much prayer, consultation, and thoughtful consideration with my family, it is clear that I can no longer seek re-election as State Representative of District 25, and subsequently, as Speaker of the House.”
Bonnen also made an announcement on his Facebook page. On Monday, Texas Standard reported that Bonnen’s speakership could end soon. But his resignation came even more quickly than expected.
James Barragán, a politics reporter for The Dallas Morning News, says the swiftness of Bonnen’s decision surprised him. It likely surprised some of Bonnen’s supporters, too, he says. They were hoping that the speaker could hold on to his seat. But Democrats, and Republicans whom Bonnen wanted to target through the conservative group Empower Texans, likely welcomed his decision.
“I think you had seen a growing clamor for Speaker Bonnen to step aside, and to make sure that this isn’t a topic of conversation going forward as we go into next year’s crucial presidential election,” Barragán says.
The scandal started when conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan secretly recorded Bonnen promising Sullivan’s organization, Empower Texans, House press credentials if Sullivan would target certain Republicans up for reelection in 2020. Bonnen also disparaged some of his colleagues in that recording, which Sullivan released on Oct. 15.
Lubbock Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican, was also part of the secretly recorded meeting with Bonnen and Sullivan.
Bonnen had denied Sullivan’s allegations about their meeting in June, and continued to do so even as Sullivan threatened to release the secret tape of that meeting. But denial became impossible for Bonnen after Sullivan released the recording, Barragán says.
“Last week, when he publicly released it, I think that really began the drumbeat for people to start calling for Bonnen’s resignation,” Barragán says.
He says it’s unclear who will replace Bonnen, but if Democrats gain seats in the Texas House in 2020, they could have greater influence on whom the House nominates for speaker.
Written by Caroline Covington.