Texas House speaker bails on reelection after he's caught on tape smearing colleagues

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Republican Dennis Bonnen announced he would leave the Texas House of Representatives after dozens of his colleagues urged him to 'move on.'

Last November, the GOP-controlled Texas House of Representatives elected Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen to be its new speaker. But after an audio recording was made public showing him offering favors to a conservative media outlet, calling one colleague "vile," and accusing another state representative of being secretly gay, he announced Tuesday that he is calling it quits less than a year into his tenure.

Bonnen, who was first elected to the legislature in 1997, was recorded by a conservative activist in June. Earlier this month, the activist released the audio, in which Bonnen urged the activist's group to target moderate Republican members with primary challengers and offered to get him media credentials. The 64-minute recording also captured the speaker predicting that a Democratic lawmaker's wife was "gonna be really pissed when she learns he's gay."

In a statement released on Monday, Bonnen noted that numerous House Republicans had made it clear they no longer supported him. "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," he announced, adding that his "below colleagues have made clear that it is in the best interest of both myself and the House to move on" in a "respectful and thoughtful way."

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Bonnen did not specify whether he would finish out his term. Many of the same Republican lawmakers who pushed Bonnen to leave were also supporters of a bill to provide new protections for Chick-fil-A and other anti-LGBTQ companies and helped kill employment non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Texans.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa applauded the speaker's announcement. "This is a victory for transparency and accountability. Texans are tired of politicians, like Republican Speaker Bonnen, who use backroom deals, cover-ups and outright lies to pursue power over everything," he said in a press release. "Now more than ever, it is clear that only the election of Texas Democrats will return of ethics and good governance to our great state."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.