Democrats have been talking about flipping Texas from red to blue for many years, but that plan just suffered a substantial setback Monday.
A long-serving state representative in the Rio Grande Valley area of south Texas, Ryan Guillen, announced that he had switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, and he was welcomed with open arms by the Texas GOP, the Washington Examiner reported.
Guillen asserted the switch was due to his conservative-leaning values no longer aligning with the Democratic agenda, while critics suggested it was due only to redistricting changes that made Guillen’s House District 31 even more solidly favorable to Republicans than it had already been previously trending.
“Throughout my entire career, creating a prosperous business climate, defending the second amendment, and protecting the lives of the unborn are the cornerstones of how I have represented my district, ” state Rep. Guillen said in a statement.
“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’s statement noted that his voting record was the “most conservative” of any elected Democrat in the state, which he argued showed that he was aligned with the voters of his district who had re-elected him in 2020 by a 17-point margin while also voting for former President Donald Trump by a 13-point margin.
“The values of the Washington D.C. Democrats are not those of HD-31 and not those of most Texans,” he said. “The ideology of defunding the police, destroying the oil and gas industry, and opening our border has disastrous consequences for those of us who live in south Texas.”
“After years of voting against tax increases, in favor of protecting Texas families, and in favor of border security funding, I have found that my core beliefs align with the Republican Party,” Guillen added. “I am confident that my switch today is the right decision.”
The Texas Tribune reported that Rep. Guillen also formally announced the switch in a Monday press conference where he was joined by Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) and Gov. Greg Abbott (R), both of whom instantly worked to make the state legislator feel right at home in his new party. But not everybody was buying the reasoning Guillen put forward for the sudden change.
“Republicans cynically gutted Rep. Guillen’s district in the redistricting process, showing complete disrespect for both him and his constituents,” state Rep. Chris Turner (D), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement. “Usually, people in Ryan’s position would choose to fight. Instead, he has chosen to join them.”
But Speaker Phelan countered the critics who claimed the switch was due to redistricting by revealing that talks of the change had been underway for a long time, and preceded the redistricting adjustments.
“Everybody has known that Ryan Guillen is really a Republican who is attached to the wrong label,” Gov. Abbott said of the change. “Ryan, we’re glad you finally came out of the closet.”