Ashby listed as target on Empower Texas/Speaker tape

Staff reports
Posted 10/15/19

Trent Ashby, state representative for District 57, which includes Madison County and surrounding counties, was one of 10 Republican state congressmen named as political targets of Texas Speaker …

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Ashby listed as target on Empower Texas/Speaker tape

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Trent Ashby, state representative for District 57, which includes Madison County and surrounding counties, was one of 10 Republican state congressmen named as political targets of Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen and then-GOP Caucus chair Dustin Burrows, according to a tape of a meeting the two had with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Since June, Bonnen has resisted suggestions that he had Burrows provide a list of Republican representatives that Bonnen would like to see face a stiff primary challenge.

Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, released the recording of the meeting to his website early Tuesday morning. About 47 minutes into the recording, Burrows brings up Ashby and others who opposed a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying.

"Those are pretty much the ones that I don't know how to turn back to vote for the next time,” Burrows says on the recording.

In addition to Ashby, members mentioned are Steve Allison of San Antonio, Ernest Bailes of Shepherd, Keith Bell of Forney, Drew Darby of San Angelo, Kyle Kacal of College Station, Stan Lambert of Abilene, John Raney of College Station and Phil Stephenson of Wharton. All are Republicans.

Empower Texans is well-known for jumping into Republican party primaries to boost the chances of a candidate the group sees as more conservative. The group, which operates a website, has long sought to gain press credentials for the Texas House. During the recording released Tuesday, Bonnen is heard to offer such credentials in exchange for helping jump into the primaries of those mentioned.

In an emailed comment late Wednesday, Ashby said "The recently released audio recording of Speaker Bonnen, Chairman Burrows, and a political operative in the Capitol Office of the Speaker is deeply troubling. I have always felt that public service is a noble calling that demands the highest moral character of those who are entrusted with public office. As such, I am profoundly disappointed by what was revealed in the recording. The profane language used to blatantly disrespect members of the Texas House through backroom political deal-making is offensive, inappropriate, and should be rejected by every member of the Texas House. Speaker Bonnen's hateful comments not only betray the trust of his fellow House members, but more importantly the 29 million Texans who expect their elected leaders to serve with integrity, high moral character, and humility. I condemn the actions of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and I believe he should step aside so that we can properly begin the healing process."

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