Leaders of the Republican Party of Texas voted Saturday to censure U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-San Antonio) over his votes in favor of same-sex marriage and gun safety, as well as his lack of support for stricter immigration restrictions and increased border security.
Gonzales represents Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, once a hotly contested swing district that was redrawn to favor Republicans.
The censure deprives Gonzales of party resources until May 28 of next year, the date of the primary runoff for the 2024 election, opening him up to potential challenges from within his own party. It also allows party officials to campaign against him in the primary and formally discourages him from seeking reelection as a Republican.
“The reality is I’ve taken almost 1,400 votes and the bulk of those have been with the Republican Party,” Gonzales told reporters Thursday at a press conference outside the San Antonio City Council chambers.
The last high-profile, statewide censure took place in 2018, when the SREC voted to punish outgoing Texas House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio.
Saturday’s resolution needed support from three-fifths of the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC), which is made up of one male and one female delegate from each of the 31 state Senate districts, plus two chairs. It received 57 votes in favor and five against with one abstention.
Complaints against Gonzales stemmed from a censure approved by the Medina County Republican Party this month that took issue with his approach to border security, as well as his votes in support of same-sex marriage, against the new GOP majority’s rules package and in favor of a gun safety measure passed after the Uvalde school shooting, which happened in his district.
Gonzales broke with the rest of the state’s House Republicans on all three votes.
Gonzales was invited to defend himself at the meeting in Austin, but he declined to attend. Instead, he said he was hosting colleagues on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, and to Uvalde, where the shooting last year left 19 children and two adults dead.
“I represent Uvalde. It’s only been 10 months and everybody forgets about Uvalde,” he said Thursday. “…The Safer Communities Act would have prevented the Uvalde shooting.”
Multiple recent efforts by the Bexar County Republican Party to censure Gonzales have failed for various reasons.
The group was among 15 county parties that affirmed the Medina County GOP’s censure, out of the 29 counties that are wholly or partially included in the state’s 23rd Congressional District.
In an effort to highlight issues where he agrees with local Republicans, Gonzales joined the anti-abortion group Alliance for Life at Thursday’s press conference to voice opposition to proposed police reforms expected to appear on San Antonio’s municipal election ballot in May.
“Prop A is going down in flames — it is going to lose,” Gonzales said at the press conference. “… We have an army of conservative warriors that are ready to push back.”
Speaking to reporters after the press conference, Gonzales downplayed the threat of the censure.
“Not everybody likes me. … It’s the way life is,” Gonzales said. “You can’t allow these people that are detractors to prevent you from doing what you want to do, what you need to do, to represent the district, but you do have to take it seriously.”
“Something like this is an opportunity to unite us,” he said, gesturing to the people gathered in opposition of the police reforms charter amendment.