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Texas GOPer says fellow Republicans he serves with are “scumbags” and klansmen

Texas GOPer says fellow Republicans he serves with are “scumbags” and klansmen
Texas GOPer says fellow Republicans he serves with are “scumbags” and klansmen

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, ripped into his party’s right flank for voting against billions in foreign aid for U.S. allies last week, castigating his ultraconservative peers as “scumbags” and klansmen.

“These people used to walk around with white hoods at night. Now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime,” Gonzales told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview Sunday. “It didn’t surprise me that some of these folks voted against aid to Israel.”

Gonazales, a rare flame-throwing centrist who is battling it out against YouTube gun enthusiast Brandon Herrera in the first serious primary challenge, singled out two sitting Republicans by name who have endorsed against him.

“It’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags like [Florida Congressman] Matt Gaetz. He paid minors to have sex with them at drunk parties,” Gonzales said, before calling out Rep. Bob Good for earlier this month endorsing Herrera, whom he called a “known neo-Nazi.”

Federal prosecutors declined to charge Gaetz after investigating allegations of sex trafficking, though the House Ethics Committee is continuing to investigate the matter.

Gonzales made the remarks in reaction to several Republican members voting against their party’s leadership on Saturday on military and civilian aid packages for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The hardline House Freedom Caucus asserted Congress should not pass the bills, which would include over $90 billion in assistance to the U.S. allies, before more securing aggressive measures on the U.S.-Mexico border. The foreign aid packages passed the House with large bipartisan support.

Gonzales has a history of clashing with the right wing of the House Republican conference. He criticized hardline border proposals by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, as anti-American and un-Christian and was the only Republican to vote against a set of rules for the House negotiated between former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and hardline Republicans. Roy’s border bill eventually became a foundation for sweeping border security legislation the House passed with full Republican support last year.

Gonzales’ attack on Good, who is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, attracted swift rebuttal from the group’s members. U.S. Rep. Eli Crane, R-Arizona, said on social media it was “pathetic” to “insinuate that other members are klansmen.” Crane endorsed Herrera’s run in the same post.

“It is not surprising that one of the most liberal RINOs in Congress, who has egregiously fought against real border security, and votes like a Democrat, would also resort to the Democrat playbook in screaming ‘racism’ against those exposing him,” Good said in a statement. “Thankfully, the good people of the Texas 23rd District have the opportunity to vote for change and an America First patriot, in Brandon Herrera.”

Herrera said Gonzales’ comments were an act of desperation as he gains momentum.

“This is the death spiral ladies and gentlemen,” Herrera said on social media.

Gaetz denied Gonzales’ claims about him as “lies,” saying on social media that “one of the final phases a politician goes through prior to defeat.”

Gaetz supported Herrera before the primary election, appearing at a campaign rally with him in San Antonio in March.

The Texas Republican Party censured Gonzales last year, citing his opposition to Roy’s border bill and the rules package, as well as his support for gun safety legislation after the Robb Elementary shooting in his district. The party also cited his support for legislation protecting same-sex marriage.

The censure invited a lively, five-way primary field, including Herrera and Julie Clark, the former Medina County GOP chair who started the censure motion. Backed by an army of online fans donating small-dollar donations, Herrera was able to secure a place against Gonzales in the runoff, which will be on May 28.

Attacking a fellow Republican member, including endorsing a primary challenger, was historically rare in the party. Gaetz’s support for Herrera was a provocative move, but the censure motion from the Texas GOP gave some cover for other Republicans to endorse Gonzales’ challengers.

Herrera has disquieted many of his fellow Republicans for his edgy humor on his YouTube channel and podcast appearances. He has made quips about veteran suicide, the Holocaust and child abuse that many moderate Republicans viewed as flippant.

He has defended his comments as being in jest to lighten heavy topics. He says in one video he’s “not really a big fan of fascism.”

Despite the pile ons from the right, Gonzales remains a competitive candidate with a formidable fundraising operation. He raised more than twice as much as Herrera in the first quarter of the year and maintains strong relationships with Republican leadership, corporate interests, moderate Republican donors and bipartisan interest groups. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which supports members of both parties to advance Israel-related issues, has steadily supported Gonzales.

Gonzales has also shown a willingness to entertain more partisan priorities, including the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Gonzales helped U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, garner support for her move to impeach the secretary. The Democrat-controlled Senate voted to dismiss the impeachment.


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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/04/22/tony-gonzales-republicans-matt-gaetz-scumbags/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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