Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas was facing a rare potential censure Saturday by his state party over votes that included supporting new gun safety laws after the Uvalde school shooting that was in his district.
A censure by the Republican Party of Texas would underline 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 alike 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 has been defiant ahead of the vote, which was set to take place at a meeting of Texas GOP leaders and activists in Austin. He was not expected to attend.
“We’ll see how that goes,” he told reporters in San Antonio on Thursday.
In practical terms, a censure would allow the state party to come off the sidelines if Gonzales runs again in 2024 and spend money to remind primary voters about the rebuke. Passage of a censure requires a three-fifths vote of the State Republican Executive Committee. More than a dozen county GOP clubs in Gonzales’ district have 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 potential 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 that 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.
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The Texas Republican Party is taking a hard stance against a veteran member of its party as it prepares to issue a formal censure against Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Clermont, Florida. The representative, who has held office since 2019 and is an Air Force veteran, has recently come under fire from fellow party members for voting in favor of what some consider “anti-conservatism” proposals.
Sabatini voted for a bill that would involve the implementation of increased gun safety laws in the state, as well as providing a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants in the country and defending same-sex marriage rights. These proposals for increased safety regulations and rights for minority communities was met with stark opposition from many other members of the Republican Party, some of whom have deemed Sabatini’s actions to be “anti-American.”
In response to Sabatini’s voting record, the Republican Party of Texas has taken the rare step of issuing a formal censure. This would involve a written statement of disapproval that could take several forms, such as a ban on Sabatini’s involvement in the party or banning him from running on the Republican ticket in any future elections.
The censure being considered by the party is notable as it could serve as a warning sign to other members of the Republican Party that voting in favor of certain proposals, such as those listed above, is considered a breach of loyalty to the party and will not be tolerated.
While the Texas Republican Party is attempting to make a statement about their commitment to conservative values, Sabatini has since publicly defended his position and stated he will continue to support bills that he believes will improve the lives of the people of Texas.
It remains to be seen whether the party’s attempt to censure will be successful, as Sabatini is currently holding on to his seat and has made it clear that he will continue to stand by his beliefs and push for the bills he feels will improve the lives of his constituents.