AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas was censured Saturday in a rare move by his state party over votes that included supporting new gun safety laws after the Uvalde school shooting in his district.
The Republican Party of Texas voted 57-5 with one abstention, underlining how the two-term congressman's willingness to break with conservatives on key issues during his short time in office has caused GOP activists and some colleagues to bristle.
That independent streak includes opposing a sweeping House GOP immigration proposal over the U.S.-Mexico border, which includes a large portion of his South Texas district. He has also voted to defend same-sex marriage and was an outright "no" against a House rules package after Republican leader Kevin McCarthy became speaker.
Gonzales was defiant before the vote and did not attend the meeting of Texas GOP leaders and activists in Austin.
“We’ll see how that goes,” he told reporters in San Antonio on Thursday.
Gonzales spent the day working, according to Sarah Young, his spokesperson.
“He talked to veterans, visited with Border Patrol agents, and met constituents,” Young said in a statement. “The Republican Party of Texas would be wise to follow his lead and do some actual work."
The vote followed an hourlong, closed-door executive session in which party members were allowed to debate the resolution.
There were no public comments by members before or after the executive session, and the vote was held about one minute after the meeting resumed, followed by applause and cheers from committee members.
In practical terms, a censure allows the state party to come off the sidelines if Gonzales runs again in 2024 and to spend money to remind primary voters about the rebuke. Passage of a censure required a three-fifths majority, or 39 votes of the State Republican Executive Committee, according to committee Chair Matt Rinaldi.
More than a dozen county GOP clubs in Gonzales' district had already approved local censure resolutions.
Gonzales cruised through his GOP primary and easily won reelection last year in his heavily Hispanic congressional district. He first won in 2020 to fill an open seat left by Republican Will Hurd — who also didn't shy from breaking with the GOP, and whose aides say is now considering a run for president.
The censure illustrates the intraparty fights that still flare in America's biggest red state even as Republicans celebrate 20 years of having full control of the Texas Legislature and every statewide office.
Last year, former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West stepped down from the job to mount a faint primary challenge against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. The state party in 2018 also censured a former moderate Texas House speaker who opposed bathroom restrictions for transgender people.
After the Uvalde school shooting, which killed 19 students and two teachers, Gonzales supported a sweeping and bipartisan gun violence bill signed by President Joe Biden. He is also the only Texas Republican in the statehouse or Congress who has called for the resignation of the state's police chief over the fumbled law enforcement response to the attack.
Miller reported from Oklahoma City.