A Republican state lawmaker from Texas is under fire from his own constituents after he left his district in suburban Houston and flew on his private jet to sunny Florida while his neighbors were without water or power.
The backlash against Gary Gates, a Republican state lawmaker who represents Texas House District 28, comes amid the uproar ignited by Senator Ted Cruz, who flew to Cancun on the same day while Texas was in the grip of a crisis brought on by severely cold winter weather.
Gates left town with his wife and three daughters after power was cut to his home in Fort Bend County, according to the Houston Chronicle.
He spent two nights at his cousin’s home in the Orlando area, where temperatures were in the 80s.
‘It really would have been nice to have a state representative helping on the ground, working at a warming center, packing food, etc. rather than immediately (flying) off on a private plane when the going got tough,’ said Brian Walz, a constituent of Gates’.
Gary Gates (above), a GOP state lawmaker who represents Texas House District 28 in suburban Houston, flew on his private jet to Orlando after power was cut to his home in Fort Bend County on Wednesday.
Gates defended his decision to travel to Orlando, where he spent two nights beginning on Wednesday. He said a third of his home (above) was flooded due to busted pipes and that his wife and daughter were at risk
Gates invited KPRC-TV to film footage of his home. The image above is where Gates says a pipe burst, causing a third of his home to flood with water
‘My neighbors didn’t get to do that when her pipe burst.’
Gates defended his decision to travel to Orlando, where he spent two nights beginning on Wednesday. He said a third of his home was flooded due to busted pipes and that his wife and daughter were at risk.
‘My wife is still recovering from an illness she has been battling for two weeks, and the room of my adult daughter, who is mentally handicapped and still lives with us, flooded,’ Gates said.
‘I was just trying to find some easier accommodations for them and I was trying to find a place where I could continue to work and do the things I needed to do.’
The legislator said that he was working during his stay in the Sunshine State.
‘I think I was more productive by being there,’ Gates told KPRC-TV.
He added: ‘I felt that I needed to be able to be in the best position to try to be somewhere where I had dependable power, dependable internet and dependable phone service.’
Gates told the Chronicle before his return trip to Texas: ‘Since arriving in Florida, I have had functioning internet and reliable mobile coverage.
‘I have been able to monitor the power restoration process, correspond with constituents and direct the recovery efforts at our apartment complexes.’
Cynthia Ginyard, who heads Fort Bend County Democrats, slammed Gates for leaving town.
‘So many of the constituents were in the same predicament and they did not have the chance to take a flight and leave town,’ Ginyard said.
On social media, reaction to Gates was harsh.
‘Another Texas lawmaker who just abandons the state in time of crisis,’ wrote one Twitter user.
‘Who do they represent? Certainly not residents of Texas.’
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘Did *any* Texas official in the Republican Party stick around to get their state of the catastrophe that their brand of politics created?’
Wrote another commenter: ‘He too could have helped hand out food – but being elite & all.. f*** the citizens.’
Elizabeth Grady tweeted: ‘If you run for public office there are certain expectations. Those expectations are for you to help not run away.’
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘When the GOP shows you who they are believe them the first time.’
Like Gates, Cruz has tried to do major damage control since his trip to Cancun.
Upon his return to Texas on Thursday, Cruz said his family vacation to Mexico was ‘obviously a mistake.’
The Republican senator said he began second-guessing the trip since the moment he first got on the plane Wednesday.
‘In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,’ he told reporters.
The trip drew criticism from leaders in both parties and was seen as potentially damaging to his future political ambitions.
Cruz said in an earlier statement Thursday that he accompanied his family to Cancun a day earlier after his daughters asked to go on a trip with friends, given that school was canceled for the week.
Gates flew to Florida on the same day that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas took a trip to Cancun. After his trip sparked an intense backlash, Cruz flew back to the States on Thursday from Cancun (above)
‘Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,’ Cruz wrote.
‘My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,’ he continued.
‘We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.’
Cruz told reporters Thursday night that he returned to the US because he realized he needed to be in Texas.
He said he had originally been scheduled to stay in Mexico through the weekend.
‘I didn’t want all the screaming and yelling about this trip to distract even one moment from the real issues that I think Texans care about, which is keeping all of our families safe,’ Cruz said.