May 22, 2024 - News

Texas border district race heats up ahead of Election Day

Photo illustration of Tony Gonzales and Brandon Herrera.

Illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: San Antonio Express-News/Hearst Newspapers/Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

Early voting is underway in the GOP primary runoff to represent a congressional border district that includes Uvalde.

Why it matters: The race between two San Antonio candidates has evolved into a fight over gun and immigration politics.

  • It's a test of the impact highly motivated party voters can have on a low-turnout election.

Catch up quick: The 23rd District race between incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales and Brandon Herrera, a pro-gun rights social media influencer, is a microcosm of the conservative pressures dominating Texas GOP politics.

  • The election is taking place just as the Uvalde community prepares to mark on Friday two years since the mass school shooting.

Flashback: Following the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Gonzales bucked his party to support a bipartisan gun safety bill that would have tightened background checks for people under age 21, among other measures.

The intrigue: The Texas Republican Party voted to censure him in response.

  • In turn, Gonzales attracted several primary challengers this year.
  • He received about 45% of the March primary vote, short of the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff.

The other side: Herrera, who secured about 25% of the primary vote, is a self-described social media personality and "Second Amendment activist."

What they're saying: By voting to support bipartisan gun regulation, Gonzales "created the opening for a primary challenger and the fuel for a runoff election," Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project, previously told Axios.

Context: The 23rd District covers hundreds of miles of the Texas-Mexico border, from the outskirts of San Antonio to outside of El Paso.

The latest: Gonzales has released new TV advertisements recently that target Herrera, accusing him of mocking veteran suicide, not supporting former President Donald Trump and not being from Texas. Gonzales also received an endorsement from Gov. Greg Abbott.

Also of note on the runoff ballot:

  • Incumbent Precinct 1 Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores faces Amanda Gonzalez in the Democratic runoff.
  • The race between Republicans Lazaro Garza Jr. and Jay Furman will determine who takes on Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges earlier this month.
  • Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan faces David Covey in the Republican runoff — a race that will help determine just how far right the Texas Legislature will go and whether Abbott will have the votes to pass private school vouchers.

What's next: Early voting continues through Friday. Election Day is Tuesday.

  • Find polling locations and hours in Bexar County online.
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