After serving eight years as a Democrat, Edinburg state Rep. Aaron Peña is joining the Republican Party, giving the GOP a 101-member supermajority in the Texas House.
In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Peña says the things he believes in "are no longer supported by the Democratic Party," which he says has taken the Hispanic community for granted and shunned moderate and conservative voices within the party.
Peña also says he has been disappointed by the Obama administration's approach to border issues, which he repeatedly refers to as a "failure."
Speculation has been swirling around the Capitol for days that Peña might be making this move. In recent days, he says he has gone back and forth on his decision. But one of the forces that tipped the scales was the response to those rumors from Democrats. "I hadn't even made up my mind, and they said, 'We're running against you,'" he says.
Peña's South Texas district is decidedly Democratic-leaning. He says that whatever his electoral future holds, he is satisfied with his decade of service.
Nederland state Rep. Allan Ritter also switched parties today. Peña warns, "If things don't change, there will be more."
Here are excerpts of the conversation:
What led to today's announcement?
What does this mean for Peña's future in his district?
Why has he been using conservative hashtags on Twitter?
What was the response to early rumors that he might switch parties?
What are Peña's thoughts on the Tea Party?
Will other Democrats also make the switch?