Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has publicly denied allegations from a hardline conservative activist that he planned to target 10 GOP members during the 2020 primary elections — four days after the accusations surfaced.
Bonnen’s statement, which was released Monday, followed an email he sent Friday evening to House Republicans detailing his version of a June 12 meeting with Michael Quinn Sullivan, the CEO of Empower Texans, and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock GOP member who chairs his party’s House caucus.
In his Friday email, Bonnen disputed Sullivan’s account of the meeting, which the activist had made public Thursday. According to Sullivan, Bonnen left the room and Burrows handed him a list of 10 Republicans to target in 2020. In return, Sullivan said, his organization would receive long-denied House media credentials when the Legislature reconvenes in 2021.
Bonnen did not explicitly mention Sullivan’s alleged 10-member list in his Friday email, though he told members he looked “forward to vigorously campaigning and supporting every one of you in both the upcoming primary and general elections.”
His statement Monday was Bonnen’s first public comment on the accusation, saying “the true nature of my conversation with Michael Quinn Sullivan somehow continues to get lost in the media narrative.”
“Let me be clear,” Bonnen wrote. “At no point in our conversation was Sullivan provided with a list of target Members.”
He also said he had asked Burrows “not to comment on this matter” — an apparent attempt to explain why the Lubbock lawmaker has not responded to repeated requests for comments about Sullivan’s allegations, both publicly and privately to colleagues in the House.
Earlier Monday, one House Republican on the alleged list, Ernest Bailes of Shepherd, called on Burrows to officially respond to the allegations, according to an email Bailes sent to members of his party’s caucus. Bailes, responding to an email sent to members requesting information about upcoming district events, asked whether he had missed a statement from Burrows on the matter. The caucus’ executive director responded to Bailes’ inquiry, saying she would inquire with Burrows about whether he intends to do so. Bailes responded with a formal request to Burrows for a response.
“It is appalling that the caucus is soliciting information on this Monday morning for district events and has yet (to) even remotely address the egregious claims which have been made,” Bailes wrote in his email, which was obtained by the Tribune. “The deft silence only solidifies truth within the allegations.”