State of Texas: Bonnen exit brings questions about impact on 2020 elections

State Legislature

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen during the 86th Legislative Session. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – State Representative Dennis Bonnen worked more than 20 years to rise to the position of Speaker of the Texas House. It took just four months for all that work to unravel.

Bonnen announced earlier this week he would not seek re-election in 2020. He will serve as speaker until the legislature meets next in Jan. 2021.

The decision comes after the release of secretly recorded audio of a meeting with Michael Quinn Sullivan, the leader of the conservative group Empower Texans. The recording captured Bonnen making offensive comments about fellow lawmakers, and voicing plans to break his promise not to campaign against fellow House members.

While legislature is not in session right now, Matt Watkins, Texas Tribune political news editor, said everything that has happened with Bonnen does effect Texas politics from redistricting to the 2020 elections.

“A lot of the work of the house gets it done before the lawmakers come back together,” Watkins said. “Dennis Bonnen was kind of the leader of the house. He’s the one that you could bring it to a fundraiser and attract you know big-money donors and things like that. Now that person is not there.”

Representative Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) was one of the first house members to call for Bonnen to resign.

“The worst part was just the dishonesty,” Biedermann said. “The dishonesty toward the members, and then the dishonesty towards the state of Texas with the denials.”

Biedermann wouldn’t speculate on who should be the next Texas House Speaker. He says he wants someone who is more conservative than Bonnen.

“We should be putting forward Republican party platform issues,” Biedermann said. “We need a speaker that is going to put those issues forwards and that’s what the majority of the people in the state of Texas want.”

James Barragan, Dallas Morning News political reporter, said the 2020 election will play a key role in deciding who the next speaker will be.

“If (Democrats) are able to gain more seats, or even in what was four years ago unthinkable, take over the Texas House, then you’re going to have a different dynamic shaping up that’s going to have much more Democratic influence,” Barragan said.

Biedermann said what Bonnen did is not unity, and they need unity right now. While they do not have a specific name of who can be the next Texas Speaker, Biedermann said they need to find someone who can lead and bring them all together.

“So finding one member and having a name right now is not the issue,” Biedermann said. “What is important is for us to come together as a caucus and begin the healing process.”

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