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Gonzales Calls in Help from Hollywood in Bid to Fend Off Primary Challenge from Brandon Herrera

Townhall Media/Rebecca Downs

Republican voters in Texas's 23rd Congressional District will head to the polls on Tuesday for a runoff between incumbent Tony Gonzales and challenger Brandon Herrera, and Gonzales is getting some last-minute help from one of the state's favorite sons. 

Matthew McConaughey, who helped lobby for passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in the wake of the murders at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, has recorded a robocall message in support of the incumbent. 

The calls reached households in the district on Sunday, May 19, according to a report from the San Antonio Express-News. The call reportedly said, "Hey there, this is Matthew McConaughey calling to encourage you to vote for Tony Gonzales in the upcoming runoff election. Look, Tony is a true Texan. He served 20 years in the Navy. He shows up in the good times, but he also shows up in the tough times."

It ended with McConaughey saying, "Just keep livin'." McConaughey has been vocal about his politics before. He called on bipartisan action for "gun responsibility" in response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde in May 2022. The actor also toyed for months in 2021 that he would run for Texas governor, against Gov. Greg Abbot and Beto O'Rourke. However, the Academy Award winner removed himself from consideration just over two weeks before the candidate filing deadline for the Texas primary.

Will voters really be persuaded by a robocall from a Hollywood actor, even one who was born in Uvalde? I doubt it, but Gonzales has a seen a flood of support from outside groups and fellow congresscritters since he failed win the primary outright a few months ago. According to OpenSecrets, Herrera has been subjected to more than $2 million worth of attack ads, while Gonzales has benefitted by having more than a million dollars in friendly ads aired on his behalf. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson has visited the district to stump for Gonzales, despite the fact that the incumbent has trashed colleagues like Matt Gaetz and Bob Good for endorsing Herrera's campaign. Gonzales has referred to Gaetz as a "scumbag", while insinuating that Good is a member of the KKK. 

Gonzales has also labeled Herrera a "neo-Nazi" after the media began reporting on one of Herrera's YouTube video reviews of the German MP-40 submachine gun that included Herrera's joke calling the gun the "original ghetto blaster." The incumbent has tagged Herrera as anti-veteran as well for supposedly "mocking veteran suicide."

Compared to the smears that Herrera's faced since his strong showing in the primary, McConaughey's rather generic robocall is downright genteel. It's still a sign, however, of how the establishment has circled the wagons around Gonzales after Herrera forced the incumbent into a runoff. 

Gonzales has a huge money advantage, backing from top House Republicans, and the support of Texas politicians like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But he's also been censured by the Texas GOP for his vote in favor of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and even in Uvalde Gonzales couldn't get 50% of the primary vote

After the primary, I said it was going to be tough for Gonzales to convince a majority of primary voters to back his return to Congress. I never expected to see Gonzales go as low as he has, however. More money has been spent tearing Herrera down than building Gonzales up, and if the incumbent does eke out a victory in the runoff on Tuesday it's going to be a depressing reminder of the effectiveness of negative campaigning. 

I'm still not convinced that Gonzales is going to pull it off, however. Herrera's been forced to play defense, but there are good reasons why a majority of TX-23 Republican primary voters chose a candidate other than Gonzales. Still, incumbency definitely has its advantages; so much so that not a single incumbent congressional candidate has been knocked out by a primary challenger this year. Can Herrera break the establishment's streak? We'll know soon enough, but I'm hoping Tuesday is a good day for The AK Guy and the voters of TX-23.