Texas Democrats are trying to stave off challenges on several fronts as they try to find their footing ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. And two recent, high profile departures from the party won’t help.
The first was state Representative Ryan Guillen, who switched to the Republican party following redistricting after years of being a Democrat from Rio Grande City in South Texas. The chair of the House Democratic caucus says he was disappointed and had no conversations with Representative Guillen before he decided to switch parties.
“Ryan’s been a key vote with Democrats on our priorities like Medicaid expansion, he stood with us voting against the so-called Republican election integrity bill, the anti-voter bill. And so, I don’t know how well he’s going to fit in in his new party,” Representative Chris Turner said on Inside Texas Politics.
Texas House stalwart, Representative Garnet Coleman, also announced his retirement recently. The Democrat has been a fixture in the Texas House for three decades.
Between those two losses, Texas Democrats have even more ground to make up in 2022.
While Representative Turner says they will face some challenges, particularly in Rep. Guillen’s district, he sees some positive trends and thinks Democrats will actually gain seats in Tarrant, Collin and Fort Bend counties.
“What I think for the long term is that the state is changing,” he said. “And Republicans were only able to do so much in redistricting even with their abuse of power in the process, they were only able to do so much because this state is becoming more diverse, it’s becoming younger and increasingly Republicans are simply out of step with the majority of Texans.”
And Beto O’Rourke’s entrance into the Governor’s race has certainly given Texas Democrats a much-needed boost. And Turner thinks the high-profile candidate will help other Democrats up and down the ballot, especially those in South Texas. O’Rourke has already made a point of visiting the area during the first days of his campaign.
“We saw in 2018 when Beto ran for the Senate, it had tremendous effect up and down the ballot and Democrats gained seats in the House and Congress. So, I think we’ll see a similar dynamic this time and I’m excited Beto’s running,” said Rep. Turner.