[Tony Gonzales] is tapping into his campaign war chest to oppose progressive propositions in the two blue cities that bookend his district — in San Antonio, decriminalizing abortion and marijuana; and in El Paso, implementing new policies to curb climate change.
“I am up to my eyes in alligators and things I’m fighting nationally, across the states — you name it,” Gonzales said. “But when there is a void in leadership of organizing people and getting people to get together and go, ‘This is a bad idea,’ … I feel very inclined to run to the fire.”
In addition to his social media advocacy against the measures, the congressman has been traveling to both cities to block walk and hand out posters. He has also hosted news conferences with local opponents, including business leaders and conservative advocates.
“This next couple months, this campaign machine isn’t pushing for ‘Tony Gonzales for Congress,’” he said. “It’s pushing to defeat Prop A in San Antonio and Prop K in El Paso.”
Gonzales raised $1.2 million in the last quarter. He declined to say exactly how much he’s invested to defeat the measures already and how much more he plans to spend before election day, May 6.
The local police union, another staunch opponent of Proposition A, is spending heavily to fight the city charter amendment.
Protect SA, a political action committee created by the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association, brought in nearly $900,000 from the start of the year through March 27, according to campaign finance reports.
Most of the money — $866,225 — came directly from SAPOA, while the union’s main PAC kicked in the rest.
Protect SA reported spending everything it raised in the first three months of 2023 on advertisements, including mailers, yard signs, cable commercials, and TV and newspaper ad buys.
In El Paso, Proposition K would lay down new rules to combat climate change, including banning the use of city water for the fossil fuel industry and further embracing clean renewable energy. The advocates who proposed the measure want the city to use only clean renewable generation by 2045.
Proponents say it’s a commonsense proposal that will help conserve water, reduce pollution and invest in long-term renewable energy projects. Gonzales, along with local business groups, say the measure will kill energy jobs and raise utility bills.
San Antonio’s Prop A, in addition to decriminalizing abortion and weed, would expand the city’s cite-and-release program to all misdemeanors and prohibit police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It’s a sweeping proposal known as the San Antonio Justice Charter.
Supporters of the measures say it will combat unnecessary arrests and mitigate racial bias. Public officials have questioned whether the proposal will be enforceable if it is passed, and opponents say it would fly in the face of state laws and hurt small businesses affected by theft or property damage.
“Change is scary for a lot of folks,” Ananda Tomas, the executive director of the police reform group Act 4 SA, told the San Antonio Express-News this week. “It was scary for a lot of folks when we were fighting for civil rights and for women’s suffrage. We met a lot of opposition and a lot of misinformation out there, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the right thing to do. I think the misinformation that they’re putting out there is fearmongering.”
Gonzales has attributed the measure to “outside organizations that parachute into our city, and they try to put their politics on us.” Some of the signs he’s put up around the city have employed the slogan, “Don’t San Francisco my San Antonio.”
“It’s an absolutely terrible idea to try to minimize enforcing laws,” Gonzales said. “It’s just a bad idea overall.”
In that way, Gonzales has again found himself an ally of some Democrats — San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg came out against Prop A this week, citing its effect on small businesses.
“These are not victimless crimes,” Nirenberg told the Express-News on Wednesday. “They hit small businesses, nonprofits, working families, and that’s an important distinction.”
Gonzales said he isn’t usually considering party politics when deciding how to use his influence or where to spend his time. He has repeatedly defended the votes that landed him in hot water with the Texas GOP — especially the gun measure, which bolstered background checks and mandated greater scrutiny of young people purchasing firearms.
Gonzales’ district includes Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school last May.
The congressman said he’ll be out and about in San Antonio and El Paso in the coming weeks to continue working against the proposals.
“You’ll see me at Fiesta,” he said. “I’ll be reminding people with my chicken on a stick and my beer — I’ll be reminding people to vote no on Prop A.”