Five candidates are running in the Republican primary for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District on March 5, 2024. Four lead in fundraising, endorsements, and media attention: incumbent Tony Gonzales (R), Victor Avila (R), Julie Clark (R), and Brandon Herrera (R).
The Republican Party of Texas censured Gonzales in March 2023, saying his votes in support of same-sex marriage and in favor of additional firearms restrictions violated the party’s principles. The resolution also said Gonzales’ lack of support for a bill that would have placed additional limits on individuals in the country without legal permission violated party principles. Gonzales was the first person Texas Republicans censured since then-Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R) ahead of the 2018 legislative primaries.
Gonzales, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, was first elected in 2020. He says he has a record of delivering for the district and would continue to deliver if re-elected, mentioning border security as a priority.
In a statement following Gonzales’ censure, his campaign said he was focused on policymaking over politics: “Today, like every day, Congressman Tony Gonzales went to work on behalf of the people of TX-23…The Republican Party of Texas would be wise to follow his lead and do some actual work.” In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Gonzales said, “The reality is I’ve taken almost 1,400 votes, and the bulk of those have been with the Republican Party.”
After the party censured Gonzales, members of the House Freedom Caucus met separately with Avila, Clark, and Herrera as part of what Punchbowl News described as “a new chapter of the war between the right and the middle of the conference.” Although the censure frees the state Republican Party to take sides in the primary, the National Republican Congressional Committee said it will continue to support Gonzales.
Avila is a former law enforcement agent who survived a cartel ambush in Mexico in 2011. He says that “keeping the southern border and our community safe has been a lifelong commitment” of his. Avila says he is “the political outsider and battle-tested leader we can rely on to follow through on his promises and deliver real results”.
Clark, a businesswoman, chaired the Medina County Republican Party when it introduced the resolution to censure Gonzales. She says Gonzales is among the “Republicans in name only…[Gonzales] voted for taxpayer funded abortions and even voted against securing our border with a wall”.
Herrera is a firearms manufacturer and host of a YouTube channel focused on firearms-related content. Herrera says he is running because Gonzales had not lived up to his supporters’ values during his time in office.
As of January 4, 2024, Gonzales had raised $2.1 million, followed by Clark with $400,000 (including $380,000 in self-funding), Herrera with $320,000, and Avila with $54,000.
Also running in the primary is Francisco Lopez (R).
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a May 28 runoff.
As of January 4, 2024, The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball each rated the general election Solid/Safe Republican. Gonzales was re-elected in 2022 56%-39%. In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) had 53% of the district vote to Joe Biden’s (D) 46%.