Texas lawmaker explains why he headed to Florida during winter weather crisis

A state lawmaker from Fort Bend County is facing questions after leaving town this week while the region battled the effects of the winter weather.

State Rep. Gary Gates, a Republican from the Richmond area, said he spent two nights in Florida beginning on Wednesday and returned to Texas on Friday.

“I think I was more productive by being there,” Gates said.

The cold weather left many in southeast Texas without power or water.

Gates said he had good reasons for flying with his wife and three daughters to his cousin’s place in the Orlando area, where temperatures reached into the ’80s on Thursday.

“Because of my wife’s illness that she’s had for a couple of weeks and my handicapped daughter with her area of the house being flooded, 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,” Gates said.

Approximately 30 percent of his home flooded because of broken pipes, Gates said, and he lost power on Tuesday night. However, he said he was still fielding concerns from his constituents and business.

“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 said.

The trip isn’t sitting well with Cynthia Ginyard, chairwoman of the Fort Bend County Democrats.

“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.

This week, Senator Ted Cruz came under fire for his trip to Cancun. Ginyard said the optics matter for elected officials.

“No, you can’t raise the temperature. No, you can’t bring back the water. But you can be there,” she said.

Gates, who said he made the trip on a plane he owns, defended his decision.

“I was more productive by being there and I had the ability to be able to put myself in a position to be able to be more productive that way,” Gates said.