A longtime Democratic lawmaker from South Texas switched parties Monday, giving Republicans another boost in their aggressive attempts to make inroads with voters along the U.S.-Mexico border.
State Rep. Ryan Guillen has been one of the most conservative Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives since 2002.
His switch to the GOP comes after his rural border district was redrawn to heavily favor Republicans under new maps signed in October by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Guillen said his values no longer aligned with Democrats, who criticized him for switching rather than staying in the party and fighting for his seat.
"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," Guillen said. "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 Democratic Party of today, and I am proudly running as a Republican to represent House District 31."
After Guillen switched sides Monday, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) issued the following statement:
“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. 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. 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.”
Abbott, meanwhile, tweeted "Guillen's decision to switch parties is indicative of a shifting landscape in South Texas."
The Texas border has long been a stronghold for Democrats. But the GOP is now looking to expand its reach along the border after former President Donald Trump made unexpected gains there in 2020.