State Rep. Allan Ritter, D-Nederland, is telling associates he will switch to the Republican Party next week. Ritter was not immediately available for comment.
That would give the GOP a 100-member supermajority in the Legislature's lower chamber — a number that allows them to pass constitutional amendments and other matters without seeking support from the Democrats.
A Ritter switch would also give Speaker Joe Straus another vote in the House Republican Caucus, which could turn out to be the forum where the next speaker is chosen. Straus foes within the GOP say they want a leader who can get the post without depending, as Straus did two years ago, on support from the minority party. Straus says he has the majority of the Republicans on his side; a vote inside the caucus would prove it.
Ritter, who would have been a candidate two years ago had the Democrats had a majority, is now with Straus.
The East Texan is in a conservative district; in fact, after the Republican sweep in the latest election, his is the most conservative seat in the House represented by a Democrat. He was one of the survivors in the elections last month, a result that might have been different if the Republicans had found a candidate to run against him.
Ritter isn't alone. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, has been considering a switch for more than a week. It's been a year since state Rep. Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville jumped the fence and became a Republican. He won his re-election by a larger margin than he ever produced as a Democrat.