Tony Gonzales says he is fighting to change the perception that Rep. Will Hurd might have been the only Republican able to hold a San Antonio-area congressional district for the GOP in 2020, a challenge that Hurd ducked by announcing last month he’s leaving Congress after this term.
Gonzales, 38, who retired from the Navy this summer, is making the case in Washington in meetings with members of Congress, PACs and think tanks.
By early afternoon Friday, Gonzales said he had chalked up 40 meetings in two days — “like speed-dating on drugs” — and still had more influential people to see before flying home to San Antonio.
“We have a good story. I’m a young Hispanic in a 70-percent Hispanic district. I joined the Navy at 18 without a high school diploma and now I’m finishing my Ph.d. For us, the American Dream is alive and well and real,” he said.
Gonzales, who was a Navy cryptologist until this summer, also did a stint as a staff member for Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. He had planned to seek the Republican nomination to challenge veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
But Hurd, the only African-American in the House GOP caucus, became part of the wave of impending House GOP retirements from Texas with his surprise announcement last month. Hurd now says he’s thinking of running for president in 2024.
Hurd won re-election last year by 926 votes against Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran who is running again for her party’s nomination. Hurd’s 2020 race was expected to be just as difficult, and now Gonzales or whoever carries the GOP banner has the task of persuading the National Republican Senatorial Committee and others to invest in an unknown commodity.
“I believe we’ve taken the narrative that only Will Hurd can hold this seat to Tony can hold it, too,” said Gonzales, the father of five children ranging from 19 years old to two months.
Gonzales is also presenting himself as more conservative than Hurd, who has said he is concerned by revelations of President Donald Trump’s entreaties to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
“I haven’t fully developed a position one way or the other,” Gonzales said of the looming impeachment proceedings. “But I will tell you that there’s a lot of political rhetoric up here, and on the surface, it just feels that this is the Democrats’ next target of opportunity.”
Former Texas Rep. Henry Bonilla was among those at an event for Gonzales on Thursday evening at the Capitol Hill Club, a Republican Party gathering spot adjacent to the U.S. Capitol.
“When you watch someone new to politics, you’re never sure how they’re going to perform. But after seeing him, a lot of us are more motivated than ever. One House member wrote him a check on the spot. They’re not going to do that if he’s not impressive,” Bonilla said.