State Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, isn’t sure there’s any merit to an activist’s claim the Texas Speaker of the House wanted 10 members’ re-election efforts undermined – including his – but he wants to hear that from directly from Dennis Bonnen.
“Ten of us are waiting for a response from Bonnen,” Stephenson said Friday. “If it is true, it’s an attack on rural representatives.”
He added, “For now, I’m waiting and hoping the Speaker will call me. I don’t want to call him. I didn’t do anything ... his motto is stand up for the House. Now’s the time.”
Seeking re-election to a fifth term in office, Stephenson spent this last term championing transparency efforts, pushing for sales tax to take the place of property tax for school funding and trying to solve the concerns with the teacher retirement systems via investments from life insurance policies.
Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan is responsible for the claim. Sullivan says he was asked, and refused, to help undermine the re-election campaigns of Stephenson and nine other Republican state representatives during a June 12 meeting, according to the Texas Tribune (see related story).
The request Sullivan said in a June 19 letter, was made by Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, the head of the House Republican Caucus, after Bonnen left the room.
Bonnen refuted the claim in a June 27 letter to Sullivan, adding the meeting was only to address Empower Texans request for media access to the House.
Bonnen has not made any public comments.
“Right now, it’s a he said, he said thing. I’m waiting on a phone call. I think he (Bonnen) should be calling,” Stephenson said.
Staunchly drawing on his background as a CPA and what he calls the West Texas attitude he was raised with, Stephenson focuses most of his efforts on finance.
Trying to keep people informed, however, may have been what provided the initial spark for what led to these claims, he said, adding he voted against a bill which would have allowed governmental entities the ability to hire lobbyists, but not reveal this to taxpayers.
He then said he worked to ensure transparency laws required governments to take action on any such efforts during an open session.
“If they want to hire somebody, they have to say this is what I’m hiring and this is what I’m paying them for. That’s transparency,” Stephenson said.
He hopes, however, that there is no merit in the claim that he and nine other reps’ campaigns should not be targeted for attack.
“I don’t know what this is yet. If it’s not true, that’s one thing, but if someone is trying to cherry pick who reps should be that’s another story. I’ll stand up to anybody,” Stephenson said.
“I hope the citizens down here will support me and I think they will,” he added. “I am concerned why this has happened and why there hasn’t been a quick rebuttal.”
Stephenson holds the District 85 House post, serving residents of Wharton and Jackson counties as well as the western portion of Fort Bend County.