There may have been enough Poncho Nevárezes in the Texas House on Wednesday to make quorum.
Dozens of House members wore name tags on the floor with the words “I’m Poncho,” a show of solidarity with the Eagle Pass Democrat, who received death threats earlier this month following a run-in with gun advocates in his Capitol office.
After a gun-rights rally on the Legislature’s opening day, a group of advocates for the legalization of openly carrying handguns in Texas visited lawmakers in their offices to push for a repeal of handgun licensing requirements. Nevárez kicked the group out of his office after they became confrontational, calling Nevárez a “tyrant” and saying they were “coming to take Texas back.”
A Texas Department of Public Safety detail has been assigned to Nevárez and his family in his home district, he said. Nevárez said he had been the target of racial slurs on social media.
“I think when somebody threatens a representative because he doesn’t vote, it’s everything we don’t stand for in this state,” said state Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton. “You can fire us, but you don’t get to shoot us because you disagree.”
A Republican, Drew Springer of Muenster, was behind the gesture. He said he came up with the idea after Nevárez joked that he should hand out “I’m Not Poncho” stickers to fellow lawmakers so that they would not be targets.
“Immediately I thought just the opposite — we need to show support for him, that we aren’t going to let people threaten us,” he said. “We’re not going to let people, in some cases from out of state, threaten us physically and try to get their way. That’s just not the way democracy works. It’s not the way Texas works.”
Springer said he gave out name tags to about 70 House members, from both parties, before he ran out.
“We’re showing support for Poncho to show that we stand with him as far as, not necessarily a policy position, but for safety issues,” said Farney.
Nevárez said the support "lightened up the day for me."
"I thought that was great, man," he said. "It shows solidarity on the floor. It shows the character of the men and women."
After Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday he did not think there was enough support for open-carry to pass the Senate, it sparked yet another dust-up with gun rights activists, who took to Facebook to denounce the Republican and organize calls to lawmakers' offices. The backlash prompted Patrick to clarify his comments in his own Facebook post — and a public statement from Stickland, who said there was "nothing wrong" with Patrick's remarks.
"He would know better than I who supports the 2nd amendment in his chamber. A Texas Senator who opposes open carry does not believe in the 2nd amendment," Stickland said. "If Dan hasn't had anyone bring this issue up to him, let me make it clear, I am bringing it up to him now. We need to protect the 2nd amendment rights of Texans, and it's embarrassing that we haven't in the past."
Julián Aguilar contributed reporting to this story.