When Most Texas Democrats Walked Out Of The Lege, A Few Stayed Behind. Here’s Why.

“They’re just trying to stick with what they know, and not take too many political risks here.”

By Kristen Cabrera & Shelly BrisbinJuly 23, 2021 10:44 am, ,

When most members of the Texas House, and a few senators, left Texas to block a quorum and prevent passage of restrictive voting measures proposed by Republicans, a few Democrats stayed behind. Why did they stay, and what have they been doing since their colleagues left for Washington?

Morgan O’Hanlon of The Dallas Morning News wanted to find out. She told Texas Standard that Democrats who stayed in Texas are all from South Texas.

“It seems like a lot of these representatives are talking about how their constituents are more moderate, and they’re trying to represent those interests,” O’Hanlon said.

The South Texas Democrats in the Legislature also have a history of forging compromises with Republicans, who are in the majority in both the House and Senate. O’Hanlon says it’s unclear whether the presence of these lawmakers will provide the opportunity for a compromise on voting legislation, but “that’s what they’re banking on, working with the right to fix some of the issues they see with these elections bills.”

On Thursday, Rep. Philip Cortez, who was among Democratic legislators who fled to Washington, returned to Texas, surprising his colleagues.

O’Hanlon says Democrats who are back in Texas are probably not concerned about how their fellow Democrats view their decision to stay home.

“It really seems here that they’re just trying to represent some of the wants of their constituents, to champion some of the more bread-and-butter issues,” O’Hanlon said. “Their voters really aren’t so interested in them … trying to oppose these elections bills that the GOP is backing.”

O’Hanlon says political scientists have told her that the way South Texas Democrats have responded to Republican voting bills has more to do with longstanding differences in South Texas politics than with the results of the 2020 elections, when Republicans made inroads with voters there.

“They’re just trying to stick with what they know, and not take too many political risks here,” she said.

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