I wonder if Greg Abbott had porcine puppet, state Rep Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, hold off on announcing his switch to the GOP-- which could have been made any time in the last eight months when he was voting with the Republicans anyway-- to coincide with Beto's announcement that he is running for governor this morning. Guillen, a classic DINO, just had his South Texas state House district gerrymandered to be a totally red seat. He announced that he is a "fiscal conservative, pro-business and pro-life" (in other words: for austerity, anti-working class and anti-choice). He didn't have to announce he's also a homophobic asshole; his voting record reflects that. Hoping to steal some of the lustre and excitement from Beto's announcement, Abbott and House Speaker Date Phelan joined the morbidly obese backbencher at a coffee shop in Floresville for his announcement, where he mouthed standard GOP talking points about defunding the police, etc. Abbott welcomed Guillen to the Dark Side: "Everybody has known that Ryan Guillen is really a Republican who is attached to the wrong label. Ryan, we're glad you finally came out of the closet."
Guillen was first elected in 2002 when he was just 24 years old and a Democrat. Since then, he has been the single most conservative Democrat in the legislature, an NRA asskisser and, most tellingly, he refused to leave the state with the rest of the caucus when the GOP was shamelessly rigging the voting system against Democrats and minority voters. It has been obvious since then that he would be leaving the party imminently. He was reelected last year 32,235 (58.4%) to 22,950 (41.6%) against Republican Marian Knowlton but the new boundary lines would have made it very difficult for him to be reelected, at least as a Democrat.
House Democratic Caucus chair Chris Turner issued a statement saying that "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."
The Texas Tribune reported this afternoon that Guillen's "district saw a huge swing in the 2020 presidential election. Trump won it by 13 percentage points, four years after Hillary Clinton carried it by the same margin. Guillen nonetheless won reelection last year by 17 points. But HD-31 is set to become far more friendly to the GOP next year thanks to redistricting. Under the new map that Abbott signed into law last month, HD-31 transforms into a district that Trump would have won by 25 points."
One Republican, Mike Monreal, has already announced a campaign for HD-31 in 2022. Monreal is a Navy veteran and construction firm executive, and he was critical of Guillen's decision to change parties.
The people of HD-31 "are tired of career politicians and political opportunists who sway with the political winds," Monreal said in a statement after the Floresville announcement. "Why, suddenly, does Mr. Guillen have a change of heart now that the district he currently serves is redrawn to favor a Republican?"
Phelan said Guillen's reelection is his "No. 1 priority," just as important as the speaker's own race.
Phelan and the governor spoke emphatically at the news conference about how they see Guillen's decision as another indicator of changing political currents in predominantly Hispanic South Texas. Earlier this month, the GOP flipped a state House seat on the South Side of San Antonio, and the winner, John Lujan, is set to be sworn into the House on Tuesday.
Now, the real news out of Texas today... and if you want to help turn Texas blue-- and elect Beto or any of the progressives running for Congress, just click here and contribute what you can.