State House Rep. Ryan Guillen becomes a Republican, as GOP makes gains in southern Texas

The least liberal member of the state House Democratic Caucus has switched parties.
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Texas Capitol building.
Texas Capitol building on July, 14, 2020 in Austin, Texas.
(Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

Longtime Democratic state Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Texas, announced Monday that he is switching parties.

He made the announcement at a press conference in which he was joined by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont.

"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 told attendees. "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."

Republicans have been striving to make inroads in south Texas following an underperformance in the region by now-President Joe Biden and Democratic candidates in 2020. Guillen's decision to switch his party alignment is also the result of a GOP-led redistricting process that turned Guillen's district from a Republican-leaning area, to a solidly red one — though the politician easily won reelection last year as a Democrat.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel welcomed Guillen to the GOP with a statement that read: "I am proud to welcome state Representative Ryan Guillen to the GOP. The Republican Party is the party of faith, freedom, and opportunity, and we will continue to stand for these ideals in Texas and across the country. 

"With trailblazers like Representative Guillen, we will continue to make gains in South Texas and grow the party in [sic] our way to victories up and down the ballot in 2022."

Prior to his official announcement, Guillen was already the least liberal Democrat in the state House, according to a Rice University ranking of the lawmakers. He notably did not travel with most Texas House Democrats to Washington, D.C., this summer when the group fled their state in protest of a Republican elections bill. He also became the only Democrat to vote for a bill last month that prevents transgender student athletes from playing on teams that do not correspond with the gender on their original birth certificate.