Rep. J.D. Sheffield
This past week, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dennis Bonnen, announced that he would not seek re-election, which will bring an end to the crisis of leadership that has existed in the Speaker’s office for the past several months.
If you do not follow Texas political news that closely, allow me to recap the unfortunate events that brought us to this point.
In mid-June, after concluding the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature, Speaker Bonnen held a private meeting with the now-former Chair of the House Republican Caucus and a well-known political activist. During this meeting, the Speaker allegedly made disparaging comments about fellow Republicans and engaged in political deal-making that I consider beneath the dignity of that office. However, the facts of what occurred were open to speculation, since each gave his own conflicting version of what took place.
That speculation ended a couple of weeks ago on October 15, when a tape recording of that conversation was released to the public just before the House Republican Caucus met for its annual retreat. Having reviewed the Speaker’s comments personally, I made it known at the retreat that I would no longer be able to support the Speaker’s continued leadership in the House. I also voted for the caucus to issue a condemnation of the Speaker and his behavior.
By the Tuesday following the retreat, enough of us had made it known to the Speaker that we no longer supported his leadership, he chose not to seek re-election.
I believe this will be remembered as an historic event, and I want you to know exactly why I felt compelled to voice my opposition to the Speaker of the House.
First, it is a simple matter of integrity. Scripture tells us that leaders should act above reproach. The actions undertaken by the Speaker did not live up to that high standard. In addition to disparaging comments about fellow Republicans, the entire meeting reeked of back-room deals and a lack of honesty.
Second, I totally disagree with the negative comments made about local governments during this meeting. I believe in local control and that local communities best understand the challenges they face. It became clear in this recording that an agenda was afoot to challenge local control, to which I cannot be a party.
As a result of these revelations, my ability to trust the Speaker was irreparably damaged.
I believe this is especially tragic because we achieved historic conservative accomplishments this past legislative session. We passed a constitutional ban on a state income tax for voters to approve this November. We passed a major school finance reform package that gives rural Texas its fair share of funding and will bring $32 million more to schools in House District 59. As a state budget writer, our committee led the Legislature to fully fund a trooper surge and technology upgrades to crack down on illegal crossings at the Texas-Mexico border. The list goes on.
I would much rather share about this historic news than the downfall of the House Speaker, but I am heartened that the majority of Republicans in the Texas House were willing to speak truth to power and demand better. It was once said about America that our nation is great because its people are good. I believe in the greatness of America because I believe in the goodness of her people—goodness that I see every day in the people of our rural district, whether in my medical clinic or out and about. We deserve to see that reflected in our government.
In the weeks and months ahead, I am committed to joining ranks with my Republican colleagues to select a new Speaker whose devotion to constructive and conservative public policy is matched by a reputation for integrity.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at (512) 463-0628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. J.D. Sheffield is a family physician who was elected in 2012 to represent District 59 in the Texas House.