Political analysts say the scandal embroiling Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen is coming at exactly the wrong time for the Texas Republican Party, and could be the tipping point as the state GOP struggles to hold onto the dominance of Texas politics that it has enjoyed for a quarter century, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"The only one who wins in this controversy are Democrats," Rice University political analyst Mark Jones told a political seminar in Austin.
The Texas Rangers are investigating allegations that Bonnen, who was elected Speaker earlier this year to succeed the retired Joe Straus, met last month with the hard-right activist group Empower Texas. The allegation is that Bonnen offered the group access to the House chamber which is not usually granted to lobbyists, in exchange for Empower Texas supporting conservative challengers to ten House Republicans, including Steve Allison of Alamo Heights, in next year's Republican primary.
Bonnen has apologized for 'saying terrible things' about his fellow Republicans, but he denies the quid pro quo, which Democrats say constitutes a crime. A tape recording of the meeting allegedly exists, but has not been released.
Jones points out that, although the Republicans still control the state House and Senate, the party suffered defeats in the 2018 elections, and recently has been rocked by the decision by four prominent Republican Congressmen, each representing district that narrowly was won by Republicans in 2018, not to seek re-election next year, opening the seats to Democrat challengers.
"It undermines the Republican Party's ability to field the best candidates possible, and to place its candidates int he strongest position, as we approach 2020," Jones said.
Jones says the Bonnen affair has not caught on among the general public, but he says you can bet that if the cloud still hangs over the party as we move into next year, Democrats will mention in it ads and blogs and make sure Texans voters are aware of it.
This comes as Politico and other publications have indicated that Texas Republicans are in their worst position since grabbing control of the reins of state government in the early 1990s. The last non-judical statewide office to be won by Democrats was when Bill Hobby was re-elected Lieutenant Governor in 1994. Since then, it has been an unbroken line of Republcians in control of statewide offices, the Legislature, the state's two U.S. Senate seats, and a majority of the Congressinal seats.
Two factors are blamed for the fading GOP dominance. They include the growing Hispanic population, which is far more Democrat than the ageing Anglo population. Also blamed is the defection of well educated suburban women, who have in many ways been the backbone of the Republican ascendancy in Texas, due in large part to their concern over comments made by President Trump.
"This is something that every Republican is concerned about," Jones said of the Bonnen scandal. "In increases the odds, if it is allowed to fester, of Democrats flipping the Texas House in 2020."