Starting Tuesday, Texas House Republicans will begin voting for a new caucus vice-chair. The party-only election is necessary because of the ongoing scandal political wags have alternately dubbed “Bonnenghazi” and “Bonnengate.”
The scandal that has consumed Texas politics this summer alleges that Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, (R-Angleton) and Texas House Republican Caucus leader State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) met with a well-known GOP operator to plan primary campaigns against members from their own party.
When news of the secret meeting broke in late July it lit up Texas political blogs like a spark hitting drought-stricken prairie. And like a prairie fire, there were some casualties. Two weeks after the secret meeting was revealed, Burrows resigned his leadership position.
The resignation immediately elevated former vice-chair Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) to the head of the caucus. Klick’s advancement opened up the position of vice-chair. To fill the vacant position the Republican members of the Texas House have to hold an election.
In late August, about 30 members of the 83 members caucus sent Klick a co-signed letter asking for an in-person meeting and vote to elect a new vice-chair. Klick denied the request and said the election would occur electronically.
She also scheduled a meeting for caucus members during their annual retreat in October. Although the leadership election has brought out a few hopefuls, so far the only candidate with establishment support is State Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston).
Bonnen and the rest of the GOP leadership have lined up behind Murphy, a five-term representative and chair of the House Corrections Committee. Murphy’s increased profile is prompting Texas politicos to re-evaluate his profile.
Despite Murphy’s often inconsistent voting record, he was for an Internet sales tax but against a bill requiring equal pay for women, it’s his day job that’s attracting criticism.
A 2018 investigation by NBC affiliate KPRC Channel 2 found that Murphy has a $312,000 per year job with Houston’s Westchase District. From 2014-2018 Murphy was listedon the district’s website as its general manager.
Murphy’s role with the district created some confusion. The Texas Constitution prohibits state legislators from holding “any civil office of profit under this State.”
However, a 2005 Texas Attorney General opinion determined that members of the Texas Legislature can work as an independent contractor for a municipal management district.
Murphy continued to stand by his statement that he wasn’t doing anything illegal. However, a few months after Channel 2 aired its report, the Westchase District removed Murphy’s name from its website.
Allegedly the district removed Murphy’s name to “avoid creating confusion” about his role in the organization.