AP NEWS

Texas can do better than Bonnen

November 19, 2018

If the November elections showed us anything, it’s that Texas is no longer a state of politics as usual. It seems that Austin got that memo but decided to throw it away.

It was about a week ago that state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, withdrew his name from contention as the next speaker, despite being the first to jump up the heels of Speaker Joe Straus’ pending retirement. He threw his support behind Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen of Angleton. On Sunday two other candidates, Rep. Four Price, R-Flower Mound, and state Rep. Phil King, R- Weatherford, both withdrew and followed the line of endorsements for Bonnen.

As speaker pro tempore since 2013, Bonnen is the likely choice to step up. With years of climbing the ranks within the Texas House behind him, Bonnen has the political clout to get the nod, and the war chest to purchase it.

But anyone praising his record must not remember his performance in 2014. During an official legislative hearing of a committee Bonnen chaired, he made the ethnic slur heard round the state, calling children of Katrina refugees “coonasses.” While I’ve seen many legislators make nonsensical statements, finding a way to disparage Hurricane Katrina refugees while having a discussion about the educational needs of immigrant children takes the cake. Uncouth behavior is not uncommon in Austin hallways or behind closed doors, but racially charged antagonism toward children from the lectern is never to be brushed over or forgotten.

That’s just the beginning of Bonnen’s less than sterling record.

In 2011, he championed a voter ID law that was later shot down by the courts for discriminatory intent and violating the Voting Rights Act.

The 2011 legislative session reeked of accusations that Bonnen acted like a petulant child when not given the committee assignments he wanted. There were reports he was a frequent no-show in the Higher Education committee and neglected his duties on the Sunset committee, leaving the work to his Texas Senate counterpart.

During the closing days of 2011, he tried to amend a pollution bill that would provide immunity for industrial facilities that damage personal property, putting corporations over citizens and corporate responsibility. The amendment was so bad that the bill’s own backers were forced to disavow it. That same year, as the clock ticked to closing, he made a motion to suspend the midnight deadline for passing bills and consider every bill remaining on the calendar. Procedurally allowable, but highly frowned upon and rarely used. Bonnen took a respected career and squabbled it away in a matter of months.

In the wake of a heated political atmosphere Bonnen seems a very poor choice to be a preeminent face of the Republican Party. He may have paid his dues and waited his turn as instructed under the rules of the boys’ club of yesteryear. But it can not have been long enough for Bonnen’s fellow state representatives to forget his racial comments, blatant disrespect for the educational needs of innocent children and selfish attitude about public service.

This election cycle has shown it’s a new dawn on a new day in a new Texas. The old way of following the pecking order has been broken. The Republican stronghold on the Legislature is fading. The public is watching more closely than ever, and the first vote of legislative session will set the tone for its entirety. For the sake of images and to quell the brewing storms fueled by divisive national sentiments, it’s clear that we can do better than Bonnen.

Scoggins was a Democratic candidate for state House District 28. This is adopted from a piece that originally ran on TexasTake.com.

AP RADIO
Update hourly