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Two State House Democrats Defect To Texas GOP

The Republican majority in the Texas House is swelling to 101.   State Representatives Allen Ritter of Nederland and Aaron Pena of Edinburg both announced today that they were both leaving the Democratic Party. 

They become a part of the largest Republican House majority in state history, with more than two-thirds of representatives coming from the GOP.

Pena quoted President John F. Kennedy on his Twitter account this morning. He wrote, "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on."

Republicans could score one more House seat tonight when the votes are tallied in a special election to replace Representative Ed Kuempel (R-Seguin). The 67-year-old died last month after winning reelection in House District 44. The Seguin Gazette reports nine candidates are on the ballot, six Republicans, two Democrats and a Libertarian.

Kuempel's son, John Kuempel, has been joined in the contest by Robin Walker, who lost the Republican primary this past March in a race with the elder Kuempel. Also running are Republicans Ron Avery, Chris Burchell, Gary Inmon and Myrna McLeroy, along with Democrats Daniel Rodriguez Andrade and Cheryl Dees Patterson, as well as Libertarian Tony Gergely. Turnout has not been strong in early voting, but Guadalupe County Elections Administrator Sue Basham says it's been strong when compared to other special or constitutional amendment elections.

If a Republican wins today's special election, Democrats would hold 49 House seats when the Legislature convenes next month. Republicans would hold 102.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
Ian Crawford joined KUT as News Editor in 2008, after spending over four years as a reporter/anchor at KLBJ Radio in Austin. He began his broadcasting career while still in high school in Southern Oregon. During high school and college at the University of Oregon, he worked at times as a reporter, news anchor, sports play-by-play reporter, music host and commercial producer before moving to Texas in 2003.