State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, joined a growing list of Republican lawmakers calling for House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to resign over remarks made in a secret recording released Tuesday.
“I condemn the actions of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and I believe he should step aside so that we can properly begin the healing process,” Ashby said in an email.
Ashby is one of 10 lawmakers named on a political hit list given by former House GOP chairman Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, to Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan during a meeting at the Capitol in June.
Two of the 10 lawmakers — Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and Phil Stevenson of Wharton — were singled out by Bonnen on the tape.
“I can’t in good conscience support Dennis Bonnen anymore as leader of the 86th Texas Legislature,” Clardy said Thursday afternoon.
During an audio recording of the meeting, Bonnen and Burrows make profanity-laden, disparaging remarks about members of the House and the media.
“The profane language used to blatantly disrespect members of the Texas House through backroom political deal-making is offensive, inappropriate, and should be rejected by every member of the Texas House,” Ashby said. “Speaker Bonnen’s hateful comments not only betray the trust of his fellow House members, but more importantly the 29 million Texans who expect their elected leaders to serve with integrity, high moral character, and humility.”
Ashby had been tight-lipped about the tape, and his office declined to comment after its release Tuesday. During a Texas Tribune forum after news of the recording broke, Ashby deflected questions about whether he still supported Bonnen.
“I have always felt that public service is a noble calling that demands the highest moral character of those who are entrusted with public office. As such, I am profoundly disappointed by what was revealed in the recording,” Ashby said after the recording was made public.
A growing list of Republicans are calling for Bonnen’s resignation as the House GOP caucus headed into its annual retreat in Austin.
Several legislators on the political hit list also have called for Bonnen’s resignation.
“Go home. You don’t need to be in the Legislature,” Stephenson told The Dallas Morning News.
Rep. Kyle Kacal of College Station said Bonnen violated the trust of House members.
“Therefore, I believe it to be in the best interest of the Texas House to take action to regain the trust of the body, as well as that of our constituents, and do so under new leadership,” he said in a statement Thursday.
Another member on the list, Ernest Bailes of Shepherd, said Bonnen and Burrows had failed to show “regret or remorse for their cold and calculated corruption of the people’s government.”
“To target me is to attack the rural Republican values of the thousands of constituents within the three counties I represent,” Bailes said in his statement, “and I will not stand for it.”
High-profile Republicans John Smithee of Amarillo and Phil King of Weatherford have also been highly critical of Bonnen. Smithee told KAMR TV in his hometown that Bonnen’s actions were a “forfeiture of the speaker’s right to lead.”
Democrats also have been urging Bonnen to resign since the tape of the meeting was released.
“The despicable nature of his personal attacks is unbecoming of his position, and his utter lack of judgment has irreparably lost him the confidence of the very members who elected him,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “In my 17 years in the Texas House, I’ve learned that it is nearly impossible for a presiding officer to continue to serve when that foundation of trust and mutual respect has been broken.”
Bonnen issued no statement Thursday, despite the repeated calls for his resignation.