Hotly anticipated release of secret recording slated for today, so what’s next for Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen?


Amy McCaig

Hotly anticipated release of secret recording slated for today, so what’s next for Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen?

HOUSTON – (Oct. 15, 2019) – Michael Quinn Sullivan, head of the ultraconservative advocacy group Empower Texans, has announced that today he will release the secretly recorded audio of a conversation that threatens to topple one of the most powerful politicians in Texas.

Texas Capitol

Credit: University

So what’s next for embattled Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen? And how might this controversy impact the 2020 election? Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, is available to weigh in.

“The uncertainty regarding the content of the conversation on this tape has been hanging over the Texas Republican Party like a dark cloud since July,” Jones said. “For better or worse, the release of the tape will provide some closure for Texas Republicans.”

Sullivan’s recording allegedly captured Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows offering Texas House press credentials to Empower Texans in exchange for Sullivan targeting a list of state representatives to defeat in the 2020 election.

Jones said the tape’s release could allow the Texas GOP to put the scandal in the past and look ahead to the 2020 election. The GOP’s narrow 83 to 67 majority in the Texas House is under threat from Democrats, and Republican control over the 2021 redistricting process is also at stake.

“The ability of Texas Republicans to carry out another partisan gerrymander of the 39 U.S. House seats Texas is expected to have after the 2020 Census is a power that has the potential to influence whether the Republican Party will be able to take back control of the U.S. House or settle into minority status for the near future,” Jones said.

The exact contents of the tape, as well as Republican reactions to them, will go a long way toward determining Bonnen’s future as speaker, Jones said, assuming Republicans retain their majority in the Texas House.

To interview Jones, the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies, professor of political science, fellow in political science at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, contact him directly at or 832-466-6535.

Rice University has a VideoLink ReadyCam TV interview studio. ReadyCam is capable of transmitting broadcast-quality high-definition and standard-definition video directly to all news media organizations around the world 24/7. Rice also has a university backdrop, 1080p webcam, light kit and wireless mic for Skype interviews.


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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.