Now that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) has decided not to seek re-election next year in the wake of the controversy surrounding his secret meeting with a conservative activist, the battle for control of the chamber in 2020 just got a lot more interesting. Republicans hold a nine-seat majority in the Texas House, but after picking up seats in 2018 and now with uncertainty about the next GOP House leadership, Texas Democrats feel they have a legitimate shot to take control of the state house for the first time in nearly two decades.
Of course, Democrats have been talking about taking back Texas for years, but it has so far proven easier said than done. Jacquie Baly, political science professor at University of Houston-Downtown, tells KTRH that Bonnen's departure may actually end up being a positive for Republicans. "Now they can put this scandal behind them, and Republicans can focus on seeking re-election and maintaining their house majority," she says.
Indeed, Texas Republicans still have plenty of money and star power heading into 2020. "Governor Abbott has said that even though he's not on the ballot, he's going to be campaigning just as hard as if he were, and he's going to be instrumental," says Baly.
Other Texas Republicans agree. Andy Hogue with the Travis County GOP believes the party can survive the Bonnen controversy and departure. "I think there are enough people in the wings ready to take that (leadership) role---there is Governor Abbott's massive campaign operation, there are other groups affiliated with the Republican Party," he tells KTRH. "I don't think it will be much of a setback, but it is a temporary one."
The bottom line is Hogue believes the GOP will ultimately hang on to control of the state house next year. "It would take a major tectonic shift in order for the Democrats to take back Texas, and it hasn't happened for two decades now," he says.