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Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott called Rep. Tony Gonzales “a fierce champion for bolstering border security measures in Congress.”
Eric Gay/AP

Greg Abbott Has Jumped Into the Messy Tony Gonzales Race

The Texas Republican Party is trying to oust an incumbent congressman. The Texas governor wants to save him.

Fresh off calling some of his party colleagues “scumbags,” Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales received a key endorsement for reelection this week from his state’s governor, Greg Abbott. The response from Texas Republicans has been bafflement — or silence.

The Texas GOP, which censured Gonzales in 2023 and has used party resources to boost his opponent, declined to comment on the governor’s endorsement. The Republican chairs of the seven largest counties in the 23rd Congressional District did not respond to requests for comment on the endorsement.

The endorsement, which was announced Wednesday, came as something of a surprise given the animosity some Texas Republicans hold toward Gonzales, who is facing gun YouTuber Brandon Herrera in a May 28 runoff. That animosity only grew when Gonzales bashed some of his colleagues on Sunday, including likening them to klansmen.

“The [Abbott] endorsement is surprising. I just don’t know,” said Scott Bowen, a member of the committee that recommended the state party censure Gonzales. “The people who live in that district seem to be crying out for a new congressman and someone who better represents their values and struggles they’re having.”

Asked if there was a fear by some in the party to speak out against Abbott, who has strong approval ratings from Texans on border security, he responded that it was a fair assumption to make.

“When Abbott has taken such a strong and good position on the border that I think people were really responding to, and then he endorses someone who has huge liabilities on that same issue,” Bowen’s voice trailed off. “It just, it just kind of makes you wonder why.”

Abbott’s endorsement could be influential: 64% of likely Republican voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate if Abbott endorsed them, according to a February poll released by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. That was more than any other Republican other than Donald Trump.

In his endorsement statement, Abbott called Gonzales “a fierce champion for bolstering border security measures in Congress,” adding that he knows firsthand “the dangerous consequences that President Joe Biden’s reckless open border policies have on our state.”

He’s not the only Republican to remain aligned with Gonzales — Speaker Mike Johnson appeared at a fundraiser to support the congressman this week, confounding some GOP lawmakers.

Herrera did not directly comment on Abbott’s endorsement other than replying to Abbott’s tweet: “It appears from the replies as though your constituents..how should I put this…Dislike this decision.”

He later tweeted a story by saying, “Lines are being drawn, and I’m honored to have the support of the real conservatives in the Republican Party.”

Ryan Hernández is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.