close
close

US Representative Tony Gonzales from Texas defends himself against a gun rights activist in the Republican runoff election

AUSTIN, Texas – Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas narrowly won his primary Tuesday against a gun rights activist who had pushed the congressman into a bitter runoff that would have ousted an incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Both won by razor-thin margins, reflecting anger among hard-line conservatives and a wave of partisan turmoil in the nation's largest Republican state stemming from bipartisan voting and the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

During the campaign, Herrera attacked the two-term Republican for his support of a gun safety bill following the 2022 Uvalde school massacre – which occurred in Gonzales' district – and his past criticism of tough immigration proposals.

Gonzales will face Democrat Santos Limon in the general election in November.

Gonzales, whom his critics viewed as a moderate Republican, called some of his right-wing congressional colleagues “scumbags” in an interview with CNN in April.

He was censured by the Texas Republican Party in 2023 for his support of federal protections for same-sex marriage and bipartisan gun safety legislation following the Uvalde mass shooting.

But Gonzales received support from leading Republicans – including Texas Governor Greg Abbott – at a time when the party has only a slim majority in the House. House Speaker Mike Johnson attended a fundraiser for Gonzales, where he raised far more money than Herrera.

Herrera is a gun manufacturer who publishes videos about guns and gun rights and has over 3 million followers on YouTube.

Here's a look at other key runoffs in the Texas primary:

TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE HAS THE RESULT – FOR NOW

Phelan, who finished second in March behind challenger David Covey, a former local party chairman and oil and gas consultant who was backed by Trump, powered to victory in the primary on Tuesday.

Phelan's victory has at least temporarily averted a push by Paxton and others to oust him from his leadership role in the state's dominant party. But upheaval could still occur in the Texas Capitol.

Phelan's victory keeps him on the general election ballot in his southeast Texas district, but the bitter primary campaign raises questions about his ability to retain the office of speaker.

At his election night party, Phelan declared victory in what he called a “terrible, terrible, bitter fight” and told his supporters that he would remain speaker.

“I think this runoff election did me a favor,” Phelan said. “It showed my voters what my true record is.”

The race was a snapshot of the fractures within the GOP nationally. Phelan, who has been speaker since 2021, came under fire after his chamber voted to impeach Paxton on bribery and corruption charges last year. Paxton was later acquitted in the state Senate.

Under Phelan's chairmanship, votes were taken that passed some of the country's toughest anti-abortion laws, significantly expanded gun rights, supported Abbott's highly visible anti-immigration campaigns, and curtailed the rights of the LGBTQ community.

After Phelan declared his victory, Covey and Paxton accused him of luring Democrats to vote for him in the Republican primary and helping him win. Texas has an open primary system, meaning voters can vote across party lines.

“Dade Phelan may have won this election, but he has irreparably destroyed his already fragile legacy,” Covey said.

TRUMP TIES

Katrina Pierson, a former Trump spokeswoman, defeated incumbent Justin Holland in the battle for his seat in the state House of Representatives in a Dallas suburb.

Holland was among the House Republicans who voted to impeach Paxton. He also voted to raise the minimum age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21 and opposed Abbott's plan to spend public education money on private schools. Abbott campaigned for Pierson.

CHALLENGING CUELLAR

Republicans have nominated Jay Furman, a retired Marine veteran, to run in November against Henry Cuellar, a longtime Democratic congressman who was indicted this spring along with his wife on federal bribery, money laundering and fraud charges. Cuellar has maintained his innocence; three of his colleagues have pleaded guilty in related investigations.

Furman defeated rancher and businessman Lazaro Garza in the South Texas district that Cuellar has held since 2005. Both had advocated for stricter border security and immigration restrictions.

There was another Cuellar on the ballot: Rosie Cuellar, his sister, lost to Cecilia Castellano in the Democratic runoff for a seat in the South Texas House of Representatives. The March primary took place before Henry Cuellar was impeached.

The winner will face Republican Don McLaughlin, who was mayor of Uvalde at the time of the school massacre, in the general election in November.

GONE GRANGER

Republicans also chose real estate developer and state House Representative Craig Goldman over construction entrepreneur John O'Shea to replace outgoing U.S. Representative Kay Granger, the country's longest-serving Republican congresswoman. Goldman will face Democrat Trey Hunt in the heavily Republican Fort Worth district.

Granger, 81, was first elected in 1996 and is a former chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. She announced last year that she would not seek re-election.