November 20 , 2018

Inside this edition of Capitol Roundup:
Rep. Bonnen becomes clear front runner  in the race for House Speaker

Four candidates file to replace outgoing state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston)

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Quote of the Week

"I know from my dealings with Chairman Bonnen that no one works harder or more passionately for Texas. There are a number of important and pressing issues facing Texas as we head into this next legislative session, including reforming school finance and elevating our education system."

-Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott, left, issued the written statement last week following Rep. Dennis Bonnen's (R-Angleton) announcement that he has amassed enough support to be elected speaker of the Texas House in the upcoming legislative session. If elected by House members in January, Bonnen, right, would replace outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). 
Bonnen gathers over 100 unofficial votes for House speaker, edging out remaining competition

Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) announced last week that more than 70 percent of the Texas House supports his bid to become House speaker in 2019, all but solidifying his position as leader of the lower chamber for the next two years. 

Rep. Dennis Bonnen
Bonnen, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and a member of the House for more than 20 years, released a list of 109 House members endorsing his candidacy. Of those on the list last Monday, 78 members were Republicans, meaning Bonnen had gathered support from virtually all of his own party and roughly half of House Democrats.

"We are here to let you know the speaker's race is over, and the Texas House is ready to go to work," Bonnen said last Monday at a press conference.  "All 149 members are going to be part of this House. Whether their name is on the list today or not is unimportant... We are excited to bring the house together, to be unified and to do good work for the people of Texas."

When Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) revealed last October that he would not seek re-election, he set in motion a yearlong scrum over who would become the first new member to lead the House since Straus took the position in 2009. 

Several House members lined up to position themselves as candidates, though, Bonnen was the last candidate to throw his hat in the ring. He said in May that he wouldn't seek the position, but by October about 40 House members had coordinated efforts to recruit Bonnen to the role. 

Once he decided to run, Bonnen began edging out the competition. Republicans John Zerwas (R-Richmond),  Tan Parker  (R-Flower Mound),  Phil King (R- Weatherford),  Travis Clardy  (R-Nacogdoches),  Drew Darby  (R-San Angelo), and  Four Price  (R-Amarillo), along with Democrat  Eric Johnson (D- Dallas) have all withdrawn from the race and thrown their support behind Bonnen. 
Rep. Chris Turner

While Bonnen maintains a clear majority of vote s without support from House Democrats, the minority party picked up 12 new seats in the midterm elections, bringing their contingent up to 67 members. Democratic caucus chair Rep. Chris Turner, who was also considering a run for speaker, has all but confirmed Bonnen's inevitable election.

"It was clear that the choice for any legislator - Democrats included - was to sign on with Mr. Bonnen or to remain unaligned for the time being," Turner said. "Democratic members were free to make that decision."

Though Turner has not officially endorsed Bonnen's bid for speaker, the Democrat has expressed a willingness to work with him.  "We expect any speaker to let members represent their district, and to prioritize real solutions for all Texans," Turner said. 

Many House Democrats are comforted by Bonnen's close alliance to outgoing Speaker Straus, who was larely viewed as a moderate who worked to bring compromise among Hous
Speaker Joe Straus
e factions. Straus had chosen Bonnen to serve as a high-ranking member on his leadership team and as House speaker pro tempore for three terms.

"Having worked closely with Dennis Bonnen in his roles as speaker pro tempore and one of our top committee chairs, I have confidence in his leadership, intelligence and commitment to the Texas House," Straus said in a statement last week. "I trust that, under Dennis' leadership, the Texas House will continue to be a place where members work together and put the best interests of Texans first."

Meanwhile, Bonnen has also gained the support of nearly all of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that Bonnen has at times sparred with in Austin. All but one of the 11 caucus members - Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) - have endorsed Bonnen for speaker. 

One of the 10 caucus members backing Bonnen - Rep.  Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) - said he hopes the group can have a more congenial relationship with House leadership this session. 
Rep. Matt Krause

"In the 85th session, there was a sense from the grassroots that leadership was prohibiting conservative legislation from coming to the floor," Krause said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. "So, we had to fight to make sure those policy ideas made it into the debate. ... This session, with a new speaker, we might find ourselves working more closely with leadership to amplify the voice of the grassroots."

Four candidates file to fill Garcia's Senate District 6 seat

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) made history earlier this month when she was elected as one of the first two Latina women to represent Texas in the U.S. House. She replaced  retiring U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in District 29. 

Sylvia Garcia
Now, four candidates have filed to compete in the Dec. 11 election to fill Garcia's vacant Senate District 6 seat, which  covers Houston's north and southeast sides. Early voting for the special election begins Nov. 26.

State Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez - Democrats with districts in Houston - announced their bids for the Senate seat back in March after the primary elections. The other two contenders are Republican Martha Fierro and Democrat Mia Mundy.

While Republicans lost a pair of seats in the state Senate in the midterm election, bringing their membership in the upper chamber down to 19, the party can still use Senate rules to debate legislation without support from Democrats. 

Reps. Alvarado and Hernandez have each expressed optimism toward cooperating with the Republican majority. Both of their House districts overlap with Garcia's former Senate district. 

"I have a good track record of working across the aisle, working in a bipartisan way, but never compromising the values that I hold near and dear to my heart and that are important to my district," Alvarado said.

"What we've seen this election cycle is that voters are more engaged,"  Hernandez said . "We saw that in the increase in voter turnout in the November election, and I hope to see that continue throughout the legislative session...that's when I've seen the greatest change, is when you have that involvement from the community."
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

AGC Texas Building Branch wishes you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving!

December 2018
11 - Senate District 6 Special Election
25 - Christmas Day

January 2019
1 - New Year's Day
8 - First Day of 86th Legislature

May 2019
27 - Last Day of 86th Legislature