State Watch

Texas state lawmaker leaves Democratic Party for GOP

Texas state Rep. Ryan Guillen announced on Monday that he is departing the Democratic Party to join the GOP.

“After much consideration and prayer with my family, I feel that my fiscally conservative, pro-business, and pro-life values are no longer in-step with the Democrat Party of today, and I am proudly running as a Republican to represent House District 31,” Guillen said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune.

The state lawmaker, who was first elected to the Texas House in 2002, made the move official during an in-person announcement Monday morning alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R).

Guillen’s move came after the Republican-led redistricting of the Lone Star State transformed the lawmaker’s already GOP-leaning district into reliably red territory, the Tribune noted.

According to ideological rankings by Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Guillen was the least-liberal Democrat in the Texas caucus. The ranking was published earlier this month.

Guillen did not join a majority of his colleagues in leaving Texas for Washington, D.C. over the summer amid the legislature’s intense battle over a sweeping elections bill, according to the Tribune. Members of the caucus were gone for roughly two months, in an effort to deny Republicans a quorum they needed to convene a special legislative session and take up the controversial bill.

Guillen also broke from his party last month when he voted for a bill that sought to prohibit transgender student athletes from joining teams that correlated with their gender identities, according to the Tribune. He was the only Democrat to vote for the measure, which was ultimately passed and signed into law by Abbott.

Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner (D) knocked Guillen in a statement after news of his departure from the party broke, questioning his will to fight the GOP redistricting.

“Republicans cynically gutted Rep. Guillen’s district in the redistricting process, showing complete disrespect for both him and his constituents. Usually, people in Ryan’s position would choose to fight. Instead, he has chosen to join them,” Turner wrote.

He also aired doubt regarding the lawmaker’s belief in Republican principles.

“Rep. Guillen probably doesn’t believe the Republican talking points he is repeating today, but he thinks they may help him get elected again. Ryan has run for office and been elected as a Democrat for 19 years. He has supported many key Democratic priorities, such as Medicaid expansion and investments in public education, while also opposing the so-called ‘election integrity’ bill,” Turner said.

“It will be interesting to see how he explains his voting record to his new party, given Republicans’ hostility to affordable health care and the freedom to vote,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), who represents a congressional district that neighbors Guillen’s state district, said the news of Guillen leaving the party was “sad,” pointing to redistricting in the state.

“As sad as it is, that’s the only way he could have continued to represent his community,” said González.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel gladly received the news of Guillen switching parties, writing in a statement that she is “proud to welcome state Representative Ryan Guillen to the GOP.”

“The Republican Party is the party of faith, freedom, and opportunity, and we will continue to stand for these ideals in Texas and across the country. With trailblazers like Representative Guillen, we will continue to make gains in South Texas and grow the party in our way to victories up and down the ballot in 2022,” she added.

Rafael Bernal contributed.

Tags Greg Abbott Ronna McDaniel

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