On Friday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson shocked many of his supporters and stirred national political debate when he announced that he was changing his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. Johnson, one of a number of Black mayors to lead America’s largest cities at the moment, has moved control of one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas into Republican hands.
Johnson announced his party change in an op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal. Titled “America’s Cities Need Republicans, and I’m Becoming One,” the piece explains Johnson’s decision to serve the remainder of his term as a Republican. Johnson states in the piece that the party switch is driven by his desire to focus on issues such as homelessness and his desire to “champion law and order and practice fiscal conservatism,” goals that he believes are better pursued by Republicans and not “virtue signaling” Democrats. Johnson is set to leave office in 2027 due to term limits. “When my career in elected office ends in 2027 on the inauguration of my successor as mayor, I will leave office as a Republican,” he wrote in his op-ed.
The Texas Democratic Party issued a harsh statement distancing itself from Johnson, saying that his departure from the party was “neither surprising nor unwelcome” and accusing him of having “long-standing affinity with Republican leaders and ideology” such as Ted Cruz. Despite depicting the party shift as a long time coming, the statement classified it as “nothing short of an insult to the electorate” who voted Johnson into office. The statement went on to say that “Mayor Johnson has turned his back on the very voters who trusted that he would uphold our hard-fought Democratic values.” With outrage from Democratic votes and donors high, a number of people have suggested that Johnson could face a recall election under Dallas law, which would be a challenge for the mayor given the city’s large Democratic majority.
Who is with me to recall Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson? 🗳️
Follow, Like and Retweet!
— Ángel Luis Vega (@AngelLuisVega) September 22, 2023
Texas Republicans, meanwhile, welcomed Johnson into their ranks. Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that Johnson’s switch is a sign that “Texas is getting more Red every day.”
Texas is getting more Red every day.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson switches to Republican Party.
He’s pro law enforcement & won’t tolerate leftist agendas.
Two of the 10 largest cities in America now have Republican Mayors & they are both in Texas. https://t.co/Qn9SM7UZ1G
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 22, 2023
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, meanwhile, simply tweeted “Welcome, Mayor!” in response to the news.
Welcome, Mayor! https://t.co/viawLP99qs
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 22, 2023
This new support comes in addition to the support previously shown by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who attended Johnson’s inauguration in June at the mayor’s request.
With Texas as a key battleground state reflecting the nation’s deep political divides, Johnson’s party change will likely fuel even more heated competition between Democrats and Republicans in the Lone Star State. Between local elections in major cities like Dallas and national races, including the 2024 presidential election, Texas will remain a key state in the contest between the two major parties for years to come.