Gonzales unveils $786k ad buy as conservatives line up behind primary opponent

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) unveiled a $786,000 TV buy, with the first ad focused on veterans, as conservatives to his right line up behind his primary opponent, social media influencer Brandon Herrera.

Gonzales, who has faced criticism from hard-right GOP members after personally attacking them on national TV, is looking to secure his reelection in Texas’ 23rd Congress Congressional District runoff contest slated for May 28.

On Tuesday, the moderate Republican showcased his campaign’s ad, where he touts the support from veterans, and he goes after Herrera’s remarks regarding service member suicides.

“I was awarded a Purple Heart in Iraq, but the war followed me home,” the first veteran says in the 30-second ad. “Veteran suicide is real. If you listen to Brandon Herrera, he thinks that’s a joke.”

The ad then shows an excerpt from Herrera’s February appearance on the “Unsubscribe” podcast where the Second Amendment activist says “If it makes everyone in the room feel better, I often think about putting a gun in my mouth. So, I’m basically an honorary veteran.”

“If Brandon Herrera won’t support veterans, he has no business representing us in Congress,” another veteran says in Gonzales’ ad. “Tony Gonzales is a veteran. Tony Gonzales stood up for us in the Middle East; now he is standing up against Joe Biden here on the border. That’s why veterans stand with Tony Gonzales.”

Gonzales told reporters about the six-figure ad buy during a press conference on Tuesday.

Herrera instantly accused Gonzales of cherry picking the line out of context and argued his campaign rakes in more money from veterans than the Texas lawmaker, who was elected to Congress in 2020.

“It’s honestly disgraceful to see you take one line purposefully out of context, and use it to diminish all of the work me and my friends have done for the veteran community here,” Herrera said in a Tuesday post on the social media platform X. “I guarantee we’ve raised more for veterans than you ever have, and that’s a promise. Shame on you.”

In addition to touting his background as a two-decade-plus veteran, Gonzales touched on how the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is a “major” issue in this race.

“I’ve hosted over 200 Members of Congress, heck I even hosted the richest man on earth, Elon Musk, to bring highlight for what is happening,” he said during the press conference. “I think in many cases, that is a reason why Border Patrol Council is endorsing me and why I have the support of the men and women in green.”

Gonzales drew fire on himself when he went after two of his hard-right conference colleagues during his appearance on CNN.

“It’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags,” he said when talking about Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Bob Good (R-Va.) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Matt Gaetz, he paid minors to have sex with them at drug parties,” he said. “Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi. These people used to walk around with white hoods at night. Now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime.”

In response, Gaetz re-upped his endorsement of Herrera. Good also backed his challenger and slammed the incumbent’s voting record.

“It is not surprising that one of the most liberal RINOs in Congress, who has egregiously fought real border security, and votes like a Democrat, would resort to the Dem playbook in screaming ‘racism,” Good said.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) held a fundraiser with Gonzales last week. The event raised $300,000, according to Gonzales’ campaign.

Gonzales has been in hardliners’ crosshairs for some time since opting to vote for all four components of the foreign aid package, a tranche of bills hardline members criticized.

While Gonzales did not directly address the attacks from House members during the Tuesday press conference, he stated the crisis at the southern border is something he paid attention to for some time, longer before it was in the brightest spotlight.

“No one knew where Eagle Pass was, it wasn’t a whole lot of infrastructure and then all of a sudden, that’s where all the people were going,” Gonzales said. “Nobody knew about Arizona, right? No one was talking about Arizona a year and a half ago and then all of a sudden Arizona became the hotspot.”

“So in my district, we live in every day.”

“One of the things that I’ve been pushing for is not just rhetoric but also results and ultimately end this border crisis,” he said.

Going into the final stages of the runoff, Gonzales enjoys a money advantage, currently having over $1.5 million cash-on-hand, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports, while Herrera has a tick over $302,000.

This story was updated at 7:43 p.m.

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