Tony Gonzales plots revenge tour for GOP colleagues backing primary challenger

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) is warning of possible retribution against some of his GOP colleagues in the House who are actively campaigning against the Texas Republican’s reelection bid. 

As Gonzales seeks a third term to his seat on Tuesday representing Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, the incumbent is facing a challenge from his right over his voting record to protect same-sex marriage and to implement stricter gun safety measures. Those votes attracted a crowded field of candidates looking to oust the incumbent during the March primary, forcing Gonzales into a runoff with challenger Brandon Herrera after neither candidate secured more than 50% of the vote. 

The runoff election has attracted national attention as many of Gonzales’s colleagues in the House have endorsed his challenger, a move the Texas Republican said won’t go unnoticed. 

“Here’s the deal: If somebody backs your opponent and goes to your district and does events [and] are giving your opponent money — they are trying to kill you politically. And you better believe them,” Gonzales told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “So your only option is to kill them politically. So I think there’s focus on Tuesday, and then we’re going to do a little purging of ourselves of our own.” 

The runoff on Tuesday will feature a matchup between Gonzales and Herrera, a gun rights activist and hard-right YouTuber who is challenging the incumbent after he broke with party lines in 2022 to vote in favor of a bill that would strengthen gun safety laws. The measure came in response to a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which is located in Gonzales’s district. 

That shooting left 19 children and two teachers dead, and it reignited national discussions about national gun control reform. 

That vote is what spurred Herrera to challenge Gonzales for his seat, telling gun rights activists at an event earlier this year that “if you vote against our interests, if you vote against gun rights, if you vote against the Constitution … we will challenge you, we will primary you and we will win. We will take your f***ing job.”

The Washington Examiner reached out to Herrera’s campaign for this story.

But Gonzales says he is unconcerned with the challenge, pointing to the state’s primary when the incumbent received 45% of the vote compared to Herrera’s 25%

“I’m gonna dust this guy, no doubt in my mind,” Gonzales said. “And honestly, I’ve gotten a whole lot stronger for it, too. So I don’t worry about what some of my colleagues up here are doing or not doing.”

It’s not entirely clear what kind of political retribution Gonzales could pursue against his colleagues should he cruise to reelection. However, the Texas Republican pointed to at least three GOP county chairs in Texas who he has been able to “purge” from leadership because they were “anti-Tony,” specifically citing Bexar and Medina counties. 

“They have been replaced with pro-Tony GOP county chairs that will take place the first week of June,” Gonzales said. “I don’t go around poking people in the chest. But if you poke me in the chest, you’re gonna get both barrels.”

But those who have supported Herrera say they are undeterred by Gonzales’s threat. 

“Tony Gonzales was sanctioned by the Texas Republican Party for being a sellout liberal,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has actively campaigned with Herrera, told the Washington Examiner. “If he’s picking fights with conservatives who oppose him, he will be very busy.”

Several other House Republicans have said they back Herrera, including Reps. Bob Good (R-VA), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Eli Crane (R-AZ). Others, such as Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO), said they are considering it.

But Gonzales boasts a slew of high-profile endorsements as well, including from state officials such as Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Gonzales has also received the backing of high-profile celebrities, including actor Matthew McConaughey, who is from the Texas Republican’s district.

The intraparty tension comes even as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has repeatedly advised party members not to get involved with GOP primaries, urging instead to project a sense of unity ahead of the 2024 election. However, some hard-line conservatives have bucked those calls to endorse far-right candidates over some of their more moderate GOP colleagues. 


One such example is Republican candidate Adam Morgan, a state representative from South Carolina who is challenging Rep. William Timmons (R-SC) for his seat. At least seven Freedom Caucus members have endorsed Morgan in the race.

Meanwhile, some centrist Republicans are also looking to challenge their hard-right colleagues, including Good, who was elected as chairman of the Freedom Caucus in January. Good faces a primary challenge from John McGuire, whom several Republicans have joined on the campaign trail to boost his candidacy.

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