On the eve of a Republican Caucus retreat in Austin, calls for Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) to resign have grown from within his party.
Today (Thursday), Reps. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) and Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) said new leadership was required. “It is time for the House to begin to heal and rebuild trust,” Darby said in a statement. “That can only be accomplished when Speaker Bonnen … [is] no longer in leadership.” Kacal said in a statement, “It is in the best interest of the Texas House to take action to regain the trust of the body … under new leadership.”
By late afternoon, Reps. Doc Anderson (R-Waco), Stan Lambert (R-Abilene) and John Raney (R-Bryan) also called for Bonnen to step down. Anderson said Bonnen “has no option other than to step down as Speaker so that we can begin the important work of restoring the people’s faith” in the House. Raney called Bonnen’s actions “reprehensible” and said he and Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) would be “held accountable, and trust will be restored with new leadership.”
Other Republican members who have explicitly said the Speaker should resign include Reps. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) and Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands). Several Democrats have also called for Bonnen’s resignation.
Several other Republicans have stopped short of calling for Bonnen’s resignation. Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) told the Kilgore Herald’s James Draper that this “horrible scandal” is “a Republican mess, and I believe it’s incumbent on the Republican House members to clean it up.” Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) told KAMR News’s Jackie Kingston that there has been a “forfeiture of the Speaker’s right to lead.” Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) said in a statement that hs is “very, very frustrated” that the issue will “continue to be a tremendous distraction as we move into the election season.” Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) previously said Bonnen “will have to resign” after he heard Michael Quinn Sullivan’s recording of a June 12 meeting with Bonnen and Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock).
Ashby, Clardy, Darby, Kacal, Lambert, Parker, Raney and Stephenson were among the Republican members listed off to by Burrows to Sullivan “if you need some primaries to fight in.” The others were Reps. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) and Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd), both of whom have made statements indicating their disapproval of Bonnen’s leadership and past apologies.
Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) said on Facebook that he and the two other Republican members of the General Investigating Committee would not attend the caucus meeting to “avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety.” Krause said the committee is “still in the process of investigating the meeting with the Speaker and others this summer.” The other Republicans on the panel are Reps. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), who chairs the committee, and Candy Noble (R-Lucas). The Texas Rangers’ investigation is also ongoing.
Outside the Capitol, at least 19 members of the State Republican Executive Committee signed a letter demanding Bonnen resign as Speaker. Several local officials, including Denton County Judge Andy Eads (R), have also called on Bonnen to step down after being recorded saying that he wanted to make this legislative session “the worst session in the history of the Legislature for cities and counties.”
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