MON brief 11.15.21
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RYAN GUILLEN, a state representative from South of San Antonio, has officially switched parties from Democrat to Republican. This is both new development and logical continuation of a fifty-year trend.
At its most basic, Guillen’s party switch is the latest data point suggesting recent GOP gains in South Texas are real. Donald Trump won Guillen’s current district by double digits, and the post redistricting version was likely to be redder.
In both versions, Texas House District 29 has significant geographic overlap with the Eagle Ford shale play. Democrat attacks on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) at the national level have likely severed their connection to this ancestral territory.
Guillen’s party switch follows the GOP pickup of another house seat in the district immediately North in a special election two weeks ago.
Beyond the immediate headline lies another equally interesting story: how the Texas good ol’ boy system is anticipating and adapting to those changes.
Ryan Guillen is a twenty-year incumbent of the Texas House. Despite being elected ten times as a Democrat, Guillen has been a committee chair in the Texas House under the past three Republican speakers.
If Guillen is re-elected as a Republican in 2022, he will become a twenty-two-year legislative incumbent. While it’s true he might receive a “better” assignment; he’s already a committee chair. This is the ultimate status quo move dressed up in the illusion of change.
And it’s nothing new.
Democrat elected officials have been switching parties, across Texas, for fifty years. This is a multigenerational trend from John Connally to Phil Gramm and Kent Hance, to Rick Perry, to Todd Hunter, to Ralph Hall, to J.M. Lozano and Aaron Pena.
Yet, for all of the widely heralded party switches, has much changed? Is the Austin lobby of today more powerful, or less powerful, than the Austin lobby of fifty years ago?
Bonus point for Texas political history nerds: With Guillen’s party switch, Duval County, home of the notorious Parr family political machine, will now be represented by a Republican (no matter how nominally) in the Texas House.
Tragically, Parr committed suicide in 1975 to make good on the first part of that statement. For the second part to now be materializing for the county he controlled is an irony of history.
SHELLEY LUTHER has announced a campaign for Texas House. Unlike the choreographed event discussed above, this one might disrupt the status quo.
Luther was famously jailed, by a Democrat judge enforcing the Republican Governor’s COVID shutdown orders, in 2020. Luther ignited a populist rebellion when she refused to accept the usual excuses from said Republican Governor. Abbott’s political standing has never recovered.
Luther then ran for the Texas Senate in a special election in late 2020. Luther ran a highly competitive race, despite the establishment running an extraordinarily dirty campaign against her. In the end, Luther was done in by the fact that, in special election runoffs between two Republicans, Democrats can tip the balance to the more liberal Republican.
Despite falling short of election to the Texas Senate, Luther’s shadow loomed large over the 87th legislative session. Drew Springer, the Representative who defeated Luther in the special election, moved significantly to the right in response to her efforts. It was a textbook example of losing the battle but winning the war.
For O’Rourke to be the #3 story, on the day he announces his campaign, tells you what you need to know.
Expect Abbott to pick highly public fights with O’Rourke to deny political oxygen to Huffines, Prather, and West. Expect the strategy to fail.
OUR TEXAS PAC, being hyped by the usual suspects, illustrates how far public opinion has moved towards the pro-life cause.
The group released a cringe video entitled “Our Daughters” that attempts to argue Republican control of state government is bad for women. It’s an obvious reference to the Texas Heartbeat Act. It’s a juvenile argument, but it’s one with which everyone is familiar.
What’s new this time, however, is that they can’t even use the word abortion. They just beat around the bush with vague allusions. While the pro-abortion movement has always relied upon deception and skulduggery, to take it to this level illustrates the degree to which they are losing.
The Texas Heartbeat Act will fall somewhere between being politically positive and neutral for the Texas GOP. It’s a small price to pay to save countless lives.
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