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Bonnen-gate Latest: House GOP Caucus Chair Steps Down

Lubbock State Rep. Dustin Burrows, the now former chair of the Texas House Republican caucus.
Lubbock State Rep. Dustin Burrows, the now former chair of the Texas House Republican caucus.
Dustin Burrows for Texas

The first shoe in the case of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, the tea party activists and the secret meeting has officially dropped. State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican from Lubbock, is no longer the chairman of the Texas House's GOP caucus. Burrows, the third man in the meeting between Bonnen and Empower Texans' Michael Q. Sullivan, stepped down Friday afternoon.

Burrows, who has yet to speak publicly about the meeting, did not issue a statement Friday.

Sullivan went public late last month with his story of what went down during his meeting with Bonnen and Burrows. According to the activist, the speaker and chairman offered him a quid pro quo. If he agreed to target certain GOP members of the Texas House during the 2020 primary, Sullivan said he was promised, he would get a media credential for the Texas House's 2021 session.

To make a long story as short as possible, here's what happened after Sullivan made the meeting's existence public and demanded Bonnen and Burrows come clean:

Bonnen denied Sullivan's specific allegations. Sullivan announced that he'd recorded the meeting. Bonnen, along with Texas Democrats, called on Sullivan to release an unedited version of the tape and Sullivan played the tape, but only for Republican legislators and activists. Those who hear the tape say it lines up with Sullivan's version of the meeting. Bonnen apologizes about what he said on the tape but doesn't get into specifics.

After news of Burrows' decision leaked, Bonnen showed no signs that he was ready to take a similar leap.

"Dustin Burrows is my friend and was a strong leader for the caucus. I respect his decision and I remain committed to strengthening our majority," Bonnen said.

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Texas Democrats were less circumspect.

“Where there is smoke, there is fire. Presumably Chair Burrows had good reason to resign. Texans deserve full transparency. It's time for the full recording to be released," Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia said. "While the Texas Republican Party is plagued with a deepening scandal, Texas Democrats remain focused on winning back the House.”

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