The morning after the Super Tuesday vote, I started my day like I usually do, reading The Facts on my iPad. I was happy to see that, once again, the good people of Texas had largely voted for good conservatives to represent them in Austin and Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, one of the stories included a description of me that is flat out untrue. It’s no surprise when that language pops up in Austin conversations — it’s just another part of the blood sport in that arena — but it frustrates me beyond words when it shows up in my hometown paper portrayed as a statement of fact. It’s time to set the record straight with you once and for all.
I have been a part of the community here in Brazoria County all my life, except for the time that I spent at college and then in the Capitol representing my neighbors. For more than two decades, I’ve hopped in my truck and headed to Austin to work for y’all. During that time, you’ve told me your concerns on everything from education to roads to health care, and I’ve responded by going to bat for you.
I was certainly honored when my peers in the House named me their speaker to start the session in 2019, but that couldn’t match the significance of every vote I ever got from my neighbors in the district. Your precious vote meant you trusted me to put your concerns first, and that has meant the world to me.
Unfortunately, last year, my leadership style and direct approach put me in the crosshairs of a guy in Austin who has made a career out of spreading rumors, half-truths and outright lies about elected officials, hiding behind a slimy shield of self-righteousness and supposedly conservative values while doing the bidding of a Midland billionaire. He has singled out the Office of the Speaker for relentless attacks over the years, targeting both my predecessor and me. He also preys on legislators with tests of ideological purity, demanding obedience and pouring mountains of cash into unseating those legislators who won’t dance to his tune. That’s a whole lot of power for a guy who has never won an election or been held accountable by voters.
After last year’s remarkably successful session, I agreed to meet with him, hoping I could get him to break the cycle of baseless attacks on trustworthy Republicans and build some unity going into a tough election year. Unbeknownst to me, he recorded the meeting. Afterward, he began a slow trickle of accusations that I’d committed a crime — serious allegations made not to law enforcement, but through social media.
In response, reporters who consider this guy a deceitful snake and utterly unreliable source, lapped up his accusations and insinuations like kittens at a saucer, then wrote thousands of words that portrayed me as a criminal. Given the seriousness of his accusations, I zipped my lip so that I wouldn’t amplify that guy’s half-truths while the legal system was exonerating me.
Folks who have listened to the recording (including my wife) have pretty much said that’s the Dennis they know. Very direct way of speaking? Check. Short attention span. Yes. Profanity? Some. Did I embarrass myself. Yep. Evidence of a crime? Absolutely not. If you need affirmation of that, look no further than the findings of the Texas Rangers. After reading their confidential report (I’ve never seen it), Brazoria County’s own District Attorney wrote in October, “I do not believe there is sufficient evidence from the June 12, 2019, meeting to warrant a criminal prosecution of Speaker Bonnen … therefore no criminal charges will be brought.” For the record, the General Investigating Committee of the Texas House found no evidence of wrongdoing either.
I’m sure that exoneration won’t change what the chattering class in Austin thinks of me and, quite frankly, I don’t care. I do care that the people I grew up with, the people that my family and I see at church, the grocery store or the soccer field, know the truth.
You know me. You know my style. You know my heart. You know my results. At the end of the day, little else matters to me.
As I look back on my time in the House, I am proud of what we achieved together on your behalf. In the months that remain, I will continue to serve District 25, lead the House and champion the conservative values that make our state the envy of the nation.
As I contemplate my departure from the Capitol next January, I’m reminded of some famous words of Davy Crockett when he left Tennessee. To paraphrase him, I have a message for all the folks in Austin who want to trade in rumors and lies: You may all go to hell and I will go to Brazoria County.