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U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, is boasting early support in his reelection campaign as he faces primary opposition over recent breaks with his party.
Gonzales raised $1.3 million in the first quarter and has locked down nearly 80 endorsements inside his district, his campaign told The Texas Tribune. He also has a confident message for his rivals.
“Anyone who wants to lace ’em up against me, it’s a fool’s errand,” Gonzales said in an interview. “I run hard — all aspects of it.”
Gonzales’ 2024 primary has heated up early after the Texas GOP voted to censure him in early March. That gave way to two challengers announcing campaigns, and others are eyeing the seat, which used to be a national battleground in the general election but became more red through redistricting in 2021.
The intraparty pushback was fueled by Gonzales’ votes last year to protect same-sex marriage rights and to pass a gun safety law after the Uvalde school shooting, which took place in his district. More recently, he clashed with fellow Republicans over a border security proposal by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, that Gonzales has said would effectively ban asylum. Roy denies that.
Gonzales raised $1,307,245 over the first three months of the year, according to his campaign, and has nearly as much cash on hand — $1,267,766.
His full campaign finance report for the first quarter is due to the Federal Election Commission on Saturday.
Gonzales’ 23rd Congressional District stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and covers hundreds of miles of Texas-Mexico border.
Gonzales’ endorsements include elected officials in some of the more rural — and often deeply conservative — pockets of the district. They include the mayors of Alpine, Castroville and Monahans, as well as sheriffs in Presidio, Hudspeth and Pecos counties. There are also endorsements from the more populous east and west ends of the district, like former El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and Greg Brockhouse, a former San Antonio City Council member and two-time mayoral candidate.
Gonzales’ announced primary challengers include Julie Clark, the former Medina County GOP chair who led the charge to censure Gonzales, and Victor Avila, a retired special agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who unsuccessfully ran for land commissioner last year.
Avila is attending the annual National Rifle Association meeting that starts Thursday in Indianapolis, aiming to show a contrast with Gonzales on gun issues. Avila’s campaign said he was “personally invited by” an NRA board member.
“I am proud to stand for the Second Amendment and every American’s right to self-defense,” Avila said in a statement. “There are solutions to violent crime, but disarming law-abiding citizens is not one of them.”
Clark has already run TV ads in the district attacking Gonzales as a “RINO” — Republican in Name Only — and comparing him to moderates like former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming. Clark announced nine endorsements Tuesday that include her successor as Medina County GOP chair and precinct chairs in the district.
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