Texas state representative Ryan Guillen announced on Monday that he is switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party, at a joint news conference with Governor Greg Abbott.
Guillen made the announcement after state redistricting efforts made his House District 31 more favorable to Republicans. The majority-Hispanic district stretches from Rio Grande City on the U.S.-Mexico border to the outskirts of San Antonio.
Former president Trump won by 13.2 percentage points in Guillen’s district in 2020, while the modified district would have voted for Trump by 25 percentage points, according to an analysis by the Texas Tribune.
However, Guillen was already known for siding with Republicans on a number of bills, voting in favor of permitless carry of handguns and for another bill requiring transgender athletes to compete on sports teams according to the sex listed on their birth certificate.
“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 at the Monday press conference with Abbott and Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan.
“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,” Guillen added. “I’m proud to continue voting the way I have and not doing so against my party.”
Abbott joked that Guillen had finally come “out of the closet” as a Republican.
“Everybody has known that Ryan Guillen is really a Republican who is attached to the wrong label,” Abbott said. “Ryan, we’re glad you finally came out of the closet.”
Meanwhile, Texas House Democratic caucus chair Chris Turner questioned whether Guillen sincerely adhered to some GOP beliefs.
“Rep. Guillen probably doesn’t believe the Republican talking points he is repeating today, but he thinks they may help him get elected again,” Turner said in a statement. “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.”
Guillen has served eight consecutive terms since assuming office for House District 31 in 2003. According to his biography on the Texas House website, Guillen is a “sixth-generation South Texan” who received a degree in agriculture before running for office.