Note to readers: About an hour after I posted this, Ritter announced that he was switching parties. A source who has proven to be reliable throughout this election cycle tells me that Allan Ritter is contemplating switching parties. It makes sense to me. When Rick Perry carried Jefferson County, once the most reliable Democratic county in the state, against Bill White, that was the death knell for Democrats here. Ritter has been strongly supported by the business community in Beaumont, but they aren’t the folks who win elections. He has to have an R by his name to survive. Ritter has always been the most conservative of the conservative Democrats, and he could cross the aisle without a hitch, as Hopson has done. Time is short; if he were to remain a Democrat, he would surely be challenged by a Republican in 2012. To make matters worse, Southeast Texas stands to lose a seat in redistricting. Ritter would surely be redistricted out of existence if he remained a Democrat. Even as a Republican, he could lose his seat. Republicans are more likely to take care of Otto and Hamilton than Ritter. Ritter has been strongly supported by the business community in Beaumont, but they aren’t the folks who win elections. He has to have an R by his name to survive. If Ritter switches, the disintegrating Democratic faction–you can’t call them a party any more–will be down to 48 members. A year ago, they had 74.