The Eyes of Lone Star State Gun Owners Are on TX-23

Townhall Media/Rebecca Downs

Beyond the presidential primaries and caucuses taking place in fifteen states today, there are a number of congressional primaries that are worth watching as well. Will Lauren Boebert get the nod from voters after moving across the state to the Fourth Congressional District? Will North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, whose political career was launched after he took his city council to task for a ban on gun shows, capture the Republican nomination for governor? Will Republican Steve Garvey finish among the top two vote-getters in California's jungle primary for the U.S. Senate seat, or will voters have to pick between two Democrats come November? 

Each of those races is important, but the most fascinating primary of all might be TX-23, where incumbent Tony Gonzales is fighting for his political life after voting in favor of the Bipartisan Communities Safety Act last year. Gonzales is facing four challengers in today's primary, and a couple of names will probably be familiar to the Bearing Arms audience: Brandon Herrera and Victor Avila. 

Herrera, also known as the "AK Guy" on social media, is a prolific and popular Second Amendment influencer who says he had no plans or desire to run for office but decided to take the plunge after Gonzales voted in favor of the gun control bill last year; helping the measure to eke out a win in the House. 

“I don’t think he represents Texas’ ideals. He’s an establishment Republican that voted for Uvalde gun control […] He’s voted for a lot of things straight up against the party,” said Herrera, who goes by the online handle of @TheAKguy.

Avila, you might recall, was one of two federal agents who were attacked by cartel members in Mexico in 2011 using guns that were allowed to cross the border under the DOJ's Operation Fast & Furious. 

[Jaime] Zapata and Avila were on assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico when their supervisors sent them on a mission to pick up some equipment that required driving on an infamous stretch of highway "known to be patrolled and controlled by a dangerous criminal organization," according to the suit. That was despite a recent travel notice that warned U.S. embassy employees of the danger. The lawsuit says Avila objected, but that the two were ordered to make the trip anyway without escort and in an armored Chevrolet Suburban that did not have working GPS.

When a drug cartel vehicle cut off and blocked Zapata and Avila's vehicle, Zapata put the vehicle in park and it automatically unlocked the doors, according to the lawsuit. It says the attackers were able to breach the vehicle, kill Zapata and injure Avila using weapons trafficked by suspects ATF had previously watched without arresting.

As you might imagine, border security is one of Avila's top issues, but so is protecting the right to keep and bear arms. On his campaign website Avila touts his NRA life membership as well as his world-record setting 2,010-yard shot with a pistol in 2020, and after spending a career in law enforcement, Avila says that he "knows that disarming law-abiding citizens will only make violent crime worse." 

While the other challengers hoping to unseat Gonzales may not have the same name recognition among 2A advocates, they too are making his vote for BSCA a campaign issue. 

“Here’s Tony Gonzales in his native habitat. He’s trying to take away our guns,” says a satirical clip in [Medina County Republican Party Chair Julie] Clark’s campaign page. She refers to him as a RINO (Republican in name only) and questions his commitment to the right to bear arms, the sanctity of life and Texas values. 

“It’s time to take out the RINO and replace him with real American patriots,” ends the ad by Clark, who identifies as a participant in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Retired U.S. Border Patrol Agent Frank Lopez, Jr. is also making securing the border the top issue in his campaign, but declares on his campaign website that the right to keep and bear arms is a "divine and solemn obligation."

As an ordained minister, I draw strength and guidance from the Scriptures, the Constitution and other Founding documents. I draw inspiration, courage and resolve from history. It is indisputable fact that during our Nation’s early days, clergy spoke of the right of the Children of God to defend themselves from tyranny. They encouraged the patriot cause and were instrumental in mustering critical support throughout the colonies in the call for independence. The right to bear and keep arms is a divine and solemn obligation.

There's been absolutely no public polling in TX-23, so what happens tonight is very much an open question. Gonzales has raised far more money than his challengers. The simple name recognition that comes with incumbency will probably give him a boost among voters who aren't highly politically engaged. Still, there's no guarantee that he'll win more than 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff, or even finish first overall among the five candidates in the field.  

We'll know in just a few hours just how badly Gonzales' support for new gun laws has hurt him among the GOP base, and which of the four challengers will best be able to capitalize on his capitulation to the gun control lobby. I'm rooting for a good night for both Herrera and Avila because I think either of the two would give gun owners a great voice on Capitol Hill, but more than anything I'm just hoping that the voters in TX-23 send Gonzales packing and replace him with a candidate who won't go soft on our Second Amendment rights once they're in D.C.