Almost two dozen Texas Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C. last month in order to block two ‘restrictive’ voting reform bills proposed by Republicans have now filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott – who is Republican – threatened to arrest the lawmakers when they eventually return to the Lone Star state after they packed onto private jets and flew to the nation’s capitol on July 12.
On Friday, 22 of the Democrats filed a complaint in federal court in Austin claiming that Republican attempts to bring them home for a special legislative session is a violation of their rights.
The plaintiffs claim they ‘have been deprived of liberty for substantial periods of time, [and] suffered much anxiety and distress over the separation from their families.
They also say they have suffered from ‘much discomfort and embarrassment’ because their reputations have been ‘impaired’.
In addition to Abbott, GOP House Speaker Dade Phelan and State Rep. James White are also named as defendants in the suit.
Almost two dozen Texas Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C. last month in order to block two ‘restrictive’ voting reform bills proposed by Republicans have now filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott. Some of the leftwing lawmakers are pictured fleeing the state on a private jet on on July 12
Abbott threatened to arrest the lawmakers when they eventually return to the Lone Star state
In the suit, the Democrats further allege that they ‘have lost much time from their homes and the companionship and care of their families and have been required to spend substantial sums of money’.
They claim Abbott and the two other defendants have ‘by public statements and otherwise, attempted to deny, coerce, threaten, intimidate, and prevent’ Democrat voters from heading to the polls.
Gov. Abbott has not yet publicly responded to the suit.
It comes one day after he called for a second special legislative session to pass two Republican voting rights bills, which is the reason that sparked the several dozen Democratic lawmakers to flee the state and break quorum in the first place.
‘I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve,’ Abbott said in a statement.
‘Passing these Special Session agenda items will chart a course towards a stronger and brighter future for the Lone Star State.’
Texas State Rep. Chris Turner, Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, is seen speaking in DC on Friday
Meanwhile, several of the Democrats have reportedly jetted out of the country from DC to go on vacation as their time away from Texas continues.
The Texas Democratic Caucus could not account for state Representatives Julie Johnson of Farmers Branch and Jessica González of Dallas in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, a person familiar with the situation told the Texas Tribune in a Wednesday report.
A reporter for Texas Monthly tweeted on Tuesday they could confirm both lawmakers and their partners went to ‘Portugal for a vacation they had been planning, with non-refundable tickets, for a year-and-a-half.’
The duo, the reporter continued, were still participating in meetings with the caucus over Zoom.
Runaway Texas Democratic Representatives Jessica González (left) and Julie Johnson (right) could not be accounted for by their caucus on Tuesday – and reportedly jet off to Portugal for a pre-planned vacation
A reporter covering the Democrats’ breaking quorum and fleeing to Washington D.C. said he could confirm the duo and González’ fiance and Johnson’s wife all went to Portugal and the lawmakers joined meetings over Zoom from their European vacation
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Thursday that he is calling a second special legislative session to get, in part, the voting bills passed – the reason the Democrats fled the state and broke quorum in the first place
Texas Republican House member Tom Oliverson lamented on Twitter that he had to cancel a family vacation to make it to the state’s special session as he took his oath to serve the people of his district seriously.
‘Wow, just wow,’ Oliverson tweeted in response to two of his Democratic colleagues taking a vacation from their D.C. hiatus. ‘Had to cancel my family’s vacation last week to Grand Teton because of a special session they helped create back in May.’
‘Texas deserves better than this,’ he added.
Several in the group of around 60 Democrats who fled from Austin last month have called themselves heroes and said they are doing their civic duty by not showing up for their job in the Texas legislature and instead lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass the For the People voting reform bill.
‘Please pray for these heroic Texas Democrats as they suffer away from home, in Portugal. Perhaps consider sending them a care package?’ Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House, sarcastically tweeted.
Republican Texas Rep. Tom Oliverson lamented that he canceled a family vacation to make sure he made it to a special session in May
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd congressional district, sarcastically wished them well ‘as they suffer away from home, in Portugal’
The Dallas Democrats posted on their Twitter last month, ‘Our Dems in DC said they’d appreciate care packages from home,’ as they prepared to send items to the runaways.
‘Before 5pm Tues, we’re collecting Dr. Pepper, salsa, hard candy, hairspray, travel toiletries, hand sanitizers, sewing kits, first aid, and/ or $ to pay shipping,’ the tweet continued.
In a text exchange with the San Antonio Express-News, González said ‘No one has shown proof’ of the Portugal trip.
‘These are rumors, period,’ she said in the Tuesday evening text. ‘End of story.’
González, in particular, plays a prominent role in the voting rights fight as vice chair of the Texas House Elections Committee.
Between July and August 7, when the first special session ends, the Texas Democrats predicted they would spend around $1.5 million for transportation, hotel accommodations, food and other expenses in D.C.
The group chartered two private jets at $100,000 to flee Austin early last month.
None wore masks and soon after an outbreak occurred among the group where at least six tested positive for coronavirus despite being vaccinated. One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s aides, who helped usher the group around the Capitol, also tested positive as well as a White House staffer.
Since arriving, the runaways have been staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel in the northwest quadrant of the city. Rooms start at $199 per night.
The group has been criticized by Republicans who claim they are dodging their duty to show up and vote on legislation, even if it will have an unfavorable outcome for their interests. Democrats, however, have praised the Texas lawmakers for sticking it to the GOP and not allowing voting reform bills to pass through the State House.
News of Johnson and González’s absence came the same day this week when more than 100 state legislators across the nation showed up to support their fight against what they feel are more restrictive voting laws.