WASHINGTON, D.C. – State Rep. Alex Dominguez says he would prefer being home working and spending quality time with his two-year old son than spending a month in Washington, D.C. 

However, the Brownsville Democrat says he has an obligation to fight to protect the voting rights of Texans.

Dominguez was one of at least 50 Texas House Democrats that broke quorum and fled Texas. By doing so they have stopped the Republican majority from passing legislation that he says will make it much harder for Texans to vote.

“We want to let every Texan, every person in the Valley to know that we are not doing this theater. We are not doing this for likes on Facebook. We are doing this because we are fighting for people,” Dominguez said.

“And while we are up here in D.C. we are not playing around. This is a working trip. We are going to be working on voter legislation and trying to stop all the very bad bills our governor is trying to push down our throats. Thank you.”

Dominguez spoke to the Rio Grande Guardian while on a bus in Washington, D.C., with his House colleagues. 

“We are in the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital. I cannot give you the exact number right now but we are squarely over 50 which is required to break a quorum,” Dominguez explained.

Asked if his presence in Washington, and those of his colleagues, means business has ground to halt at the Texas House, Dominguez said: “Well, that is not to say our phones are not working. We will certainly continue to negotiate with our colleagues. We would like to make all these bills better bills if possible. But if they are not willing to bend we are not going to be taken hostage.”

The complaints against the Republican legislation is that it will lead to longer lines of voters in metro areas. It also curtails curbside voting. Polling times might also be reduced and, in the case of Houston, only one drop-off voting location will be allowed. 

Asked why he does not like the GOP legislation, Dominguez said: “For starters, the voter suppression bill that the governor is pushing is based completely on the Trump lie that somehow the election was stolen from him. The Governor’s own appointed Secretary of State said there was no voter fraud in Texas, at least none that needed prosecution. That is his own expert saying that there is not voter fraud. That makes you wonder why do we need this bill.”

Dominguez said Republican governors in other states are also pushing legislation that restricts voting. He cited by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia. 

“It seems they are all on the same play book,” Dominguez said. “We are not going to put up with that in Texas because that is not what our constituents want and it is not what the reality is. We need to be fighting these every step of the way to do what is right for Texans.”

The Rio Grande Guardian asked Dominguez about the strategy of the Texas House Democrats. Could they last out in D.C. for a whole month to see out the special session?

“I have certainly packed enough clothes to be here for 30 days but more importantly this gives us an opportunity to speak with our congressional colleagues and Senate colleagues to try to get federal legislation passed,” Dominguez responded. 

He cited the importance of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and another bill that would make voting easier. 

“If those bills take effect it does not matter what Governor DeSantis, Governor Abbott, or Governor Kemp try to do. People will get their chance to vote. This is a civil right we are fighting for.”

Democrats control the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Asked why the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act have not been passed already, Dominguez said: “Well, in each case the Senate has a rule where you need 60 members to agree to move forward on a bill. At this point there are 50 Republicans that refuse to move forward on the voting rights bill. The only way we can pass that is to at least temporarily set aside the filibuster allowing the Democrats to vote to move forward and consider the bill on the floor.”

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, are said to oppose the removal of the filibuster. Asked if he would be setting up a meeting with them, Dominguez said: “We are already doing that as we speak.”

It was put to Dominguez that the voter restrictions legislation is not getting a lot of play in the Rio Grande Valley and may be of more importance in the larger metro areas. He responded:

“Parts of this bill are specifically are targeting Harris County, which is the largest county in the state. It is a county that has changed from Republican control to fully being controlled by Democrats. It has been trending against the governor’s position.

“We actually have a history in the Rio Grande Valley of voter suppression. It was a long time ago and there have been changes, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But, we can’t let up. We certainly need to be looking out for our constituents, all Texans, across the entire state.”

Dominguez said his colleague, state Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg deserves praise.

“I will give a shoutout to my fellow state Representative, Terry Canales, who worked very hard behind the scenes to negotiate some amendments to improve the last voter bill and those improvements he put in were ultimately stripped out by the Senate and House conferees before it hit the floor on Sunday, May 30. He is not one to brag about it but state Representative, Chairman Terry Canales did a fantastic job in fighting for the rights of Texas voters.”

Asked what the reaction of constituents has been to the walkout, Dominguez said:

“We only touched down about 40 minutes ago but I have received only comments that have been positive, even people I have not heard from in quite some time because of Covid, are very excited, very proud of us, very supportive. They know we are doing this because we have to and time is of the essence.”

Dominguez acknowledged that he and his Democratic colleagues cannot keep breaking quorum every special session.

“Our personal funds can only last so long. We are essentially a volunteer led legislature, they pay us $600 a month. In addition to that I am submitting a letter to the clerk. I am going to be denying my personal per diem that the state would be paying me because I think it is important for Texans to know I am not doing this and expecting to get paid for being in D.C.,” Dominguez said.

“I am doing this because it is the right thing to do. Hopefully I can raise some money to be able to help my colleagues to make sure we have hotel rooms and we have food and get back to my family as soon as I can. Trust me, we do not want to be here. I miss my family, I miss my two-year old son. I miss my job. We are doing this because we have to, because it is the right thing to do.”

Quality journalism takes time, effort and…. Money!

Producing quality journalism is not cheap. The coronavirus has resulted in falling revenues across the newsrooms of the United States. However, The Rio Grande Guardian is committed to producing quality news reporting on the issues that matter to border residents. The support of our members is vital in ensuring our mission gets fulfilled. 

Can we count on your support? If so, click HERE. Thank you!

Keep on top of the big stories affecting the Texas-Mexico. Join our mailing list to receive regular email alerts.