On Monday, State Rep. Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City), who has thus far identified as a Democrat, announced that he was switching his partisan affiliation to Republican.

“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 Democrat Party of today, and I am proudly running as a Republican to represent House District 31,” Guillen said in a statement.

Guillen, first elected in 2002, has consistently been on the more conservative end among his now-former Democrat colleagues in the Texas House of Representatives.

In the 87th regular legislative session earlier this year, Guillen was the only Democrat to vote for the recently enacted Texas Heartbeat Act, prohibiting an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, and he was one of only two Democrats to vote in favor of constitutional carry legislation as it finally passed the House.

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility rated him as a 26 of 100 on their Fiscal Responsibility Index, the second-highest of the 62-member Democrat Caucus. Rice University pegged him as the most conservative Democrat House lawmaker in their legislative index.

The Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi said,

“Rep. Guillen has been a friend for many years, and I am proud to welcome him to the Republican Party. I am confident Republicans in Austin and his constituents in the Rio Grande Valley will welcome him with open arms. Following this month’s Republican victories in Virginia and in Texas HD118, this is yet another example of how the increasing extremism of the Democratic Party has alienated Texans who care about smaller government, strong families, safe communities and the protection of the unborn. Those people have a home in our party.”

In the Interest of Self-preservation

Perhaps chief among Guillen’s motivations to switch parties is that of self-preservation.

One of the more notable outcomes of the new district boundaries as a result of the recently completed decennial redistricting process is the partisan shift of Guillen’s district, House District 31.

In its current disposition, it includes Atascosa, Brooks, Duval, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, La Salle, Live Oak, McMullen, Starr, and Willacy counties. In the 2020 election cycle, the district swung from voting 13 points in favor of Clinton in 2016 to voting 13 points in favor of former President Trump in 2020.

The district’s new boundaries exclude Atascosa and Willacy counties and instead pick up Karnes, Wilson, and Zapata counties, making it much more favorable to a would-be Republican candidate. In this district configuration, Trump would have won this district by 25 points.

Guillen already had an announced Republican challenger in Mike Monreal, a Navy veteran and Floresville resident. Guillen’s partisan switch sets them up to face each other in the 2022 primary election.

Precedent for Party Switches

Guillen is not the first lawmaker to change his political party following a redistricting cycle.

Republican State Rep. J.M. Lozano (Kingsville) changed his partisan affiliation from a Democrat to a Republican in March of 2012 upon the conclusion of the decennial redistricting process.

What Does it All Mean?

Ultimately, this increases the number of currently elected Republican House lawmakers to 85 of the overall 150.

It is possible that additional Republican candidates will enter the race, challenging Guillen. The candidate filing period just began and ends on December 13, 2021.

As of now, the primary election date is March 1, 2022.

Jeramy Kitchen

Jeramy Kitchen serves as the Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard as well as host of 'This Week in Texas', a show previewing the week ahead in Texas politics. After managing campaigns for conservative legislators across the state, serving as Chief of Staff for multiple conservative state legislators, and serving as Legislative Director for the largest public policy think tank in Texas, Jeramy moved outside of the Austin bubble to focus on bringing transparency to the legislative process.


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