State Sen. Donna Campbell, a New Braunfels Republican, during a debate on abortion earlier this year. TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH
by BRAD ROLLINS
In a story published this morning about State Sen. Donna Campbell’s eventful freshman session, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News capitol bureau reporter Kolten Parker rather skillfully slipped in a captivating tidbit that has for months been the subject of giddy gossip among Austin insiders.
Four of six staffers have left Campbell’s capitol office since January, grumbling on their way out about the senator’s high-handed and dictatorial management style. The senator, for example, supposedly requires her staff to stand at attention when she enters the room. The most explosive accusation has centered upon a rumor that Campbell slapped her former chief of staff, Bonnie Bruce, during a committee hearing. Bruce resigned from Campbell’s office effective at the end of the regular session on May 31.
I asked Campbell about Slapgate on Aug. 13 following a press conference at Bobcat Stadium announcing Seton Family of Hospitals’ new partnership with Texas State University. True to form, Campbell was combative and chatty in denying ever having slapped Bruce.
“Wouldn’t you know if you’d slap somebody? I’ve never slapped anyone. [Not] even my husband who’s probably deserved to be slapped. I’ve never done it,” she said. Elsewhere during her meandering, six-minute-long rebuttal of the claim, Campbell said: “People are going to believe what they want to believe. … I’m finding out that something doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be said and you can build a story around it.”
Because Bruce has pointedly declined several opportunities to say publicly that her former boss slapped her — both to me and to Parker — I initially decided to put the story on hold in hopes that supporters of Campbell’s primary challenger, Mike Novak, would prevail upon Bruce to either put up or shut up. Either say the rumors are true or that they are not; it’s too difficult for me to put too much stock in an incendiary accusation that’s not even backed up by the alleged victim.
Now that the Express-News has introduced the story into the wilds, I’m publishing the audio of my interview with Campbell for MercuryPro members.
The interview is replete with precious moments.
Between indignant denials, the senator kept attempting to dress me down for shoddy journalism. Later, Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth interrupts the conversation in an attempt, it seemed to me, to rescue Campbell from the discussion. Campbell just keeps on talking, barreling through one non-sequitur after another.
» Listen to the Donna Campbell interview [5 mins, 47 secs] | Join MercuryPro.