Mon. May 27th, 2024

Conservatives aim their fire at Texas Republican after ‘scumbags’ comment

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson May13,2024

The battle between Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and the GOP’s right flank is heating up, with hardline House conservatives throwing their support behind his primary opponent after the moderate Republican called two of them “scumbags” on national television.

Gonzales kicked the hornet’s nest over the weekend when, during an interview on CNN, he went after Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Bob Good (R-Va.) — “it’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags” — launching personal attacks on the conservative duo.

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

Gaetz, who has denied the allegation, and Good — joined by other hardliners — shot back at Gonzales, criticizing his voting record, slamming him as a “Republican in name only” and endorsing his primary opponent, Brandon Herrera, a social media influencer and self-proclaimed Second Amendment activist who has worked to plant himself to the right of Gonzales.

“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,’” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said of Gonzales on X. “Thankfully, the people of the Texas 23rd District can vote for change and an America first patriot, in Brandon Herrera.”

Gaetz, who campaigned for Herrera in March and re-upped his support for him this week, gave Gonzales a new nickname on Tuesday: “Turncoat Tony.”

The heightened Republican infighting comes as the May 28 runoff in Texas’ 23rd Congressional district inches closer, with Gonzales and Herrera set to go head-to-head for the GOP nomination. Gonzales, who was first elected to Congress in 2020, beat Herrera by 20 percentage points in the March primary, but his 45.1 percent share fell short of the 50 percent needed to advance straight to the general election.

Gonzales, to be sure, is no stranger to acrimony within the GOP ranks. Last year, the Texas Republican Party overwhelmingly voted to censure him over his votes in favor of a measure protecting same-sex marriage on the federal level, and for the bipartisan gun safety bill that moved through Congress after the fatal school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which is located in his district. 

But the current bickering is bubbling up amid a moment of increased tension and division among Republicans on Capitol Hill, as hardline conservatives try to stymie the GOP agenda through procedural roadblocks and threaten to force a vote on ousting Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) — all to the chagrin of moderates like Gonzales.

Those dynamics were on full display last week when Johnson — after months of delay — put a package foreign aid bills on the floor, a perilous step in his Speakership that went against the wishes of his right flank. Hardline Republicans refused to help advance the package in the Rules Committee and on the floor, forcing Democrats to step in and help move the legislation forward — a rare show of assistance from the minority party.

The move by Johnson prompted two more GOP lawmakers to get behind Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) effort to oust the Speaker, though it remains unclear when — or if — the Georgia Republican plans to trigger a vote on her motion to vacate resolution.

Moderates, meanwhile, are not hiding their displeasure with the hardline tactics.

“Members are tired. We’re exhausted. It has been a brutal Congress. But we’re also dug in,” Gonzales told CNN on Sunday. “For some reason, these fringe people think as if they have the high ground. They do not.”

Conservatives, as a result, are now lining up against Gonzales and behind Herrera, upping the pressure on his re-election prospects and putting a spotlight on next month’s runoff race.

“This is such BS and so pathetic, especially from a fellow veteran. To insinuate that other members are klansmen because they call you out for being a complete and total Rhino,” Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) wrote on X in response to Gonzales’ CNN comments. “Wasn’t one of our core values Honor @TonyGonzales4TX? Hey Brandon, add me to your list of endorsements. We will never save the country with guys like Tony.”

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told The Hill he plans to formally endorse Herrera after he speaks to him.

The conservative offensive is both personal and political.

Personally, Gonzales stirred up the drama over the weekend with his comments about Gaetz and Good, galvanizing hardliners on Capitol Hill to defend their colleagues and try to topple the individual responsible for the attacks.

But politically, Gonzales has found himself at odds with the right-flank’s conservative agenda for months, emerging as a top target for hardliners as they look to install more of their own in the House GOP ranks.

Most recently, Gonzales voted for all four parts of Johnson’s foreign aid package — including the Ukraine portion, even though it was not accompanied by strict border security measures, which Johnson had demanded until the eleventh hour. A number of conservatives opposed each of the four bills in the package because border security was left on the cutting room floor.

Before that, the Texas Republican voted against an amendment to add a warrant requirement to the U.S.’s spying powers — known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — which a bloc of hardliners were strongly in favor of.

And last year, Gonzales criticized an early version of the GOP conference’s border bill as “unchristian.”

“I cannot tolerate what’s happening to the people that I think are standing up for this country. To the people listening to this out there, just know, I’m not gonna back down. I’m gonna keep fighting for this country. The numbers are growing in D.C. but we’re not there yet, and the primary season matters,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said on local Texas radio Tuesday.

The conservative onslaught against Gonzales has also emerged as a proxy battle in the broader war between Johnson and his right flank. The Speaker appeared with Gonzales for a fundraiser on Tuesday, a source familiar told The Hill, as part of a previously planned swing through Texas, an appearance that conservatives are taking note of.

“To have the Speaker be in San Antonio campaigning for Tony, when Tony voted against the warrant requirement, when the Speaker voted against the warrant requirement, when we had them both voting to fund this atrocity this last weekend,” Roy said. “I am just beside myself that that’s where things are.”

“Today Mike Johnson is campaigning for Tony Gonzales,” Gaetz wrote on X. “What does this make you think about Tony Gonzales?”

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “Conservatives aim their fire at Texas Republican after ‘scumbags’ comment”
  1. It’s clear that Rep. Tony Gonzales stirred up quite the storm with his bold comments about fellow Republicans. While some may see it as a necessary call-out, others view it as an unnecessary escalation in party tensions. The political climate seems to be getting hotter by the minute!

  2. Do you think this public feud between the GOP members helps or hurts the party’s image?

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