Skip to main content

Analyzing 2019: The fall of a Texas House speaker

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen went from his January election to hero of the legislative session to historical footnote in less than a year. Several of the year's columns analyzed the politics of a speaker quickly losing the trust of the House that elevated him in the first place.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen adjourns sine die from the dais on May 27, 2019.

Dennis Bonnen entered the race for speaker of the Texas House late, after other candidates had faltered, and locked it up quickly. He took office in January, helped steer what had been a cantankerous Legislature through passage of major school finance and property tax legislation, gaveled out the end of the session and won praise for the results.

A couple of weeks after the session, he held an ill-fated meeting with a political activist and critic of the Legislature’s work and, over the course of an hour-long conversation, undid his chances of winning a second term. Bonnen was critical of many of his fellow Republican members, of local officials from around the state and more — and it was all captured in a recording made by that activist, Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans.

When the recording was made public months later, Bonnen’s chance at another term was gone. He didn’t file as a candidate for reelection in 2020, meaning there will be a new member representing his district, and a new speaker presiding.

A high-stakes political test for Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen

A political activist accused House Speaker Dennis Bonnen of trying to undermine the campaigns of 10 members of his own party, an allegation that — true or not — could ruin the goodwill Bonnen built up in a successful legislative session earlier this year.

Empower Texans allegations spark a crisis for House Speaker Dennis Bonnen

The crisis around Bonnen is heating up as newly revealed recordings add some credence to allegations that he and a trusted lieutenant plotted with a political activist against some GOP House members. Will his members believe him — or his accuser?

Bonnen repairing hurt feelings, but the political damage is real

If the members of the Texas House are still on Speaker Dennis Bonnen's side after they know just what he said to a political activist in a secretly recording meeting, he'll keep his job. It comes down to trust.

Dennis Bonnen, Michael Quinn Sullivan and the Texas political roller coaster

In May, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen was at the top of the political world. In terms of influence, Michael Quinn Sullivan and his Empower Texans organization was near the bottom. And now?

Give Michael Quinn Sullivan his due — he was telling the truth about Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen

The long-awaited recording of the meeting between the House speaker and a political operative is now out — and as turns out, Michael Quinn Sullivan's account was mostly on the nose.

Dennis Bonnen’s long goodbye

The Texas House speaker was always going to leave sometime. But his departure could come much sooner than expected.

Quality journalism doesn't come free

Yes, I'll donate today