The Democratic Party’s civil war continues to take its toll. Jim Geraghty noted that across the South, a handful of elected Democrat officials switched parties this week, and the week prior to that I noted that several others had switched, including two black Democrats in Georgia.
In Texas Tuesday, two Democratic state Representatives hung up the donkey and switched teams: State Rep. Allan Ritter of southeast Texas (District 21), and state Rep. Aaron Pena of Hidalgo County (District 40) , are now Republicans, giving the Texas GOP an almost unthinkable 101-49 supermajority in the state House.
Ritter (on the right in the photo above) hails from a conservative district, and was in many ways the last of the Democratic Party of yore, conservative and in line with the values of Texas. Pena, at the podium in the photo, could turn out to be a more historic switch. His district is in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, right on the Texas-Mexico border. Until today, there were no elected Republicans in Hidalgo County. Now there’s one.
If Pena’s name sounds familiar (and you’re not a Texas political junkee), it may be because I’ve written about him here at PJM before. He has been an outspoken critic of the Texas Democratic Party, and in particular its lack of attention to the values and beliefs of Texas Hispanics. Today, Pena voted with his feet and is now a Republican. I caught up with him after the event, iPhone in hand, to ask him a few questions. It was a noisy environment, but pay attention to how Pena says the liberals in his own party treated him for holding to some conservative ideas and values such as his pro-Second Amendment beliefs and his respect for the Constitution.
He describes the progressives’ attitude toward his values as a “hostile work environment.” Strong words. Here’s why he’s right.