Touting his Mexican roots and saying he was “bullied” by members of the Democratic Party, state Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, made his switch to the GOP official today.
Flanked by Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, House Speaker Joe Straus and his wife and mother, the Jalisco native said he was proud to switch to the party that values faith and hard work.
“We were all raised in Jim Wells County, a county whose residents are, by and large, pro-life, pro-business and pro-oil-and-gas exploration, a county where gun ownership and hunting are as common as a Starbucks coffee in our state capital,” he said. “I reflect these conservative principles, but most importantly it reflects my upbringing, my heart and my soul.”
The freshman lawmaker first confirmed his party change on Monday and explained then that redistricting played a large role in his decision. Perhaps buoyed by the GOP muscle surrounding him today, he delivered a more partisan message.
“In the words of President Ronald Reagan, 'I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me,'” he said. “This last session was very difficult for me for the simple fact that I always intended to always vote my district, and to never be bullied into submission. And I would get, at times, mistreated by members of the Democratic caucus because I was voting conservative.”
Democrats were ready with a partisan message of their own for Lozano: Good luck getting re-elected.
“I know this was a personal decision and it could not have been easy for him. But the unease that he felt in making the decision to switch parties will be nothing compared to the discomfort of actually being a Latino Republican,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said in a prepared statement.
“Latino Republicans have the highest attrition rate of any other caucus in the Legislature this year,” said Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
The Texas Democratic Party also released a video today reminding the public about party-line votes that Lozano made during the 82nd Legislature, including votes against voter ID legislation, the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill and the reduced budget.
“Much appreciated by Democrats and progressives everywhere,” the ad mocks. “Republican primary voters are also gonna LOVE those votes.”
In what could be seen as an acknowledgement that changing demographics could spell trouble for conservatives if Texas Hispanics stay with Democrats, the gathering also gave GOP leaders a platform to recruit more Hispanics to the party.
“Whether you are currently members of the Legislature who feel trapped in the Democratic Party, if you are members of the Hispanic community who are thinking about which party is right for you, if you are a Hispanic voter out there searching for which member or which party to vote for, we encourage you to understand our commitment to you, your principles and your values,” Abbott said.
Lozano will face Bill T. Wilson in a primary election contest in May, according to the Texas Republican Party’s website. But party chairman Steve Munisteri said today’s event did not amount to an endorsement of Lozano.
“The state leadership is welcome to do whatever they think is appropriate," he said. "I can’t speak for them."
Former state. Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice, filed paperwork today to reclaim her seat, setting up a November contest for the seat should Lozano survive the primary.