South Texas State Rep. Ryan Guillen switches to the Republican Party as he seeks 11th term

Longtime South Texas state Rep. Ryan Guillen is switching parties and kicking off his re-election campaign Monday as a Republican after serving nearly two decades in the state House of Representatives as a democrat.

The party switch is another victory for the Texas GOP in South Texas, where heavily Hispanic counties that have long voted Democrats now tend to be redder. Republicans have made tremendous strides there in 2020 and hope to continue that momentum in next year’s election, when all members of the Legislative Assembly and elected officials across the state will be re-elected.

“My friends, something is happening in South Texas,” Guillen said. “Many of us are realizing that the values ​​of those in Washington, D.C. are not our values, are not the values ​​of most Texans — certainly not the values ​​of South Texas.”

Guillen, of Rio Grande City, made the announcement at a press conference in Floresville alongside Governor Greg Abbott and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan.

Abbott said the change was indicative of the shift to the right along the border: “As the Democratic Party moves further left, it is abandoning the people of South Texas and their values.”

Guillen was already among the more moderate House Democrats; a To analyse earlier this month, political science professor Mark Jones ranked him the least liberal of his colleagues. Guillen joined Republicans in passing a series of controversial bills this year, including the state’s near-total ban on abortion, unlicensed carrying of handguns and a measure banning transgender student-athletes. to compete on sports teams aligned with their gender identity.

“After years of voting to protect the Second Amendment, after years of voting to protect unborn children and against tax increases and to secure the border, I now look forward to not having to break with my party. to do it,” he said. .

The district has turned redder in recent years, and new state redistricting maps would further cement the GOP’s hold there. The Guillen District voted for former President Donald Trump by approximately 13 percentage points in 2020; the new map, which comes into effect in next year’s election barring any legal action, would widen that gap to 25 points.

The Texas Associated Republicans, a GOP political group, announced over the summer that they would target six seats held by Democrats in next year’s election, including Guillen’s post in District 31. Still, he won last year by 17 percentage points.

The district includes Starr County, which had the biggest GOP swing in a blue county in the country in 2020. Former President Donald Trump lost 60 percentage points there in 2016, but narrowed that gap to 5 points. four years later.

After the redistricting, the seat now includes neighboring Zapata County, which Democrat Hillary Clinton won by 33 points in 2016. It turned red last year.

Guillen’s change brings Republicans’ majority in the House to 85, after Republican John Lujan won a seat in the San Antonio area in a special election earlier this month. He will be sworn in on Tuesday.

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie and leader of the House Democratic Caucus, attributed Guillen’s party switch Monday to an unfavorable redistricting cycle. Instead of choosing to fight the Republicans who redrew the maps, Turner said, “he chose to join them.”

“Rep. Guillen probably doesn’t believe the Republican talking points he’s repeating today, but he thinks they could help him get re-elected,” he said in a statement.

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