Longtime South Texas Democrat switches to the Republican Party

Border Report Tour

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott welcomes state Rep. Ryan Guillen, who switched parties and will run as a Republican (Gov. Greg Abbott)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A veteran South Texas state representative, who recently sponsored a controversial redistricting amendment that dramatically changed the congressional border districts, has switched to the Republican party.

State Rep. Ryan Guillen, of Rio Grande City, appeared at a news conference with Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday in Floresville, Texas, and announced he will not be running as a Democrat during his next election campaign for Texas House District 31, which includes a large section of the border in Starr County.

His switch comes as South Texas is increasingly being targeted as an area that Republicans feel they can take back in 2022.

Guillen tweeted Monday that his “fiscally conservative, pro-business, and pro-life values are no longer in-step with the Democratic Party.”

During the last Special Session called by Abbott, Guillen sponsored a controversial redistricting amendment that carved out a section of South Texas’ 15th Congressional District and placed it in the 34th Congressional District. That particular area is where three-term U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat, lives. And the move enabled Gonzalez to switch congressional districts and to now run for the 34th.

Gonzalez barely won his last reelection against Republican candidate Monica de la Cruz, who is running again and has high-profile backing from the Republican party by members like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California.

With Gonzalez in another district, de la Cruz is largely considered the favorite and she is gaining momentum in a region that used to be a Democratic stronghold.

Source: Texas Legislature

“Friends, something is happening in South Texas, and many of us are waking up to the fact that the values of those in Washington, D.C., are not our values, not the values of most Texans,” Guillen said Monday. “The ideology of defunding the police, of destroying the oil and gas industry and the chaos at our border is disastrous for those of us who live here in South Texas.”

Abbott said Guillen’s party switch is reflective of a larger trend throughout the Lone Star state, and the nation.

“I am proud to welcome Representative Guillen to the Republican Party — the party of economic opportunity and individual liberty. Rep. Guillen’s decision to switch parties underscores a changing landscape in South Texas,” Abbott said in a statement.

“The differences between Republicans and Democrats could not be more clear, because as the Democrat Party moves further to the left, they are abandoning the people of South Texas and their values. Republicans, however, will not abandon the people of South Texas like Democrats have. Instead, we will continue to fight for freedom, opportunity, and prosperity in District 31 and throughout South Texas. And our efforts are made stronger today with Representative Guillen joining the Republican Party,” Abbott said.

The Texas Tribune reported that Guillen was the “least liberal” Democrat in the House during the 2021 Legislature.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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