Two more Texas Democrats test positive for COVID-19 ahead of 2nd week in D.C. push for voting bills

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WASHINGTON — Two more of the Democrats who fled Texas last week to prevent the Legislature from passing Republican-backed voting bills have tested positive for COVID-19.

After three members tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday and Saturday, the Texas House Democratic Caucus provided daily rapid tests for all members and staff in Washington, D.C., this week. After a round of testing, two additional members tested positive, the caucus said in a release.

All of the Texas lawmakers in Washington are vaccinated. The caucus has not provided the names of the now five members in the delegation who have tested positive, though they said all are feeling good, with no, or only mild, symptoms.

“The House Democratic Caucus is following all CDC guidance and protocols,” Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie said Saturday after the first three members tested positive.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio confirmed in a press release Sunday evening that he was one of the two members to test positive Sunday. He said in a statement that he tested negative on Friday and Saturday.

“I am quarantining until I test negative, and I am grateful to be only experiencing extremely mild symptoms,” Martinez Fischer said.

The positive tests come as the state lawmakers plan another full week of pushing for federal voting legislation, including attending a five-day conference, with big names such as labor leader Dolores Huerta and the secretaries of state from four states on the schedule. Mi Familia Vota, a national Latino civic engagement group, and the Service Employees International Union Texas are hosting the event, which begins Monday.

“We will educate our legislators, train our allies, and fight back against the perpetrators of voter suppression to preserve our democracy,” Elsa Caballero, president of SEIU Texas, said in the press release.

The roundtable has been adapted to be more virtual after members of the delegation tested positive. Most guest speakers will attend virtually and the Texas Democrats will tune in as a group from their hotel, according to NBC News.

Rep. Celia Israel of Austin, one of the legislators who tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday, said that she is doing well and quarantining until she tests negative.

“Today and everyday, I’m fired up and ready to go,” Israel tweeted after testing positive. “I will not stop until we pass federal voter protection legislation that protects every Texan’s right to have our ballots counted.”

Organizers of the conference told NBC News that with everything going on right now, they didn’t want to postpone the roundtable. The climate is just right, Caballero said, to continue to put the extra pressure on.

“With Covid-19 protocols in place, this conference is the next step in our fight to pass the John Lewis For the People Act,” Hector Sanchez Barba, chief executive officer of Mi Familia Vota, said in the press release. “We thank our champions of Democracy for staying in the fight and pledge our support.”

The conference will include elected officials from across the country — Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea will attend, in addition to elections administrators and state representatives from Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Georgia.

In addition to Huerta, activists Varun Nikore of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Action Fund, Cliff Albright of the Black Voters Matter Fund and Erika Hudson of the National Disability Rights Network will speak at the roundtable.

Since arriving in Washington last Monday night, the Texas Democrats have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the For the People Act, which Senate Republicans filibustered last month, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, two voting rights bills that face an uncertain future in the evenly split Senate.

The Democrats see federal legislation as the only sure way to thwart Republican attempts in the states to limit access to the polls after the 2020 election.

Members of the delegation finished off their first week in Washington by attending the Good Trouble Vigils for Democracy on Saturday night, where House Rep. Carl Sherman of DeSoto spoke. The vigil marked one year since Rep. John Lewis’ death and honored his memory.

“[Lewis] was drawn to the righteous fight, and on behalf of the Texas legislative fugitives who stand here with me, we stand in solidarity in truth,” Sherman said at the event, ABC News reported.

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