Republican Navy Veteran Tony Gonzales Seeks Texas' CD-23 US House Seat
San Antonio native and 20-year Navy veteran Tony Gonzales recently announced he will seek Texas Congressional District 23’s seat in the US House of Representatives during the 2020 elections.
Gonzales, who enlisted in the Navy out of San Antonio at age 18 as an E1 and retired a month ago as an E9 (Master Chief), says his love for America and his conservative outlook on the world is what called him to run for office as a Republican in CD-23.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life serving our country. I love it; it’s who I am. That’s never going to change. I will serve our country till my last dying breath. I have a conservative outlook on the world. I believe in free enterprise, limited government, I’m pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, and I believe in the Constitution,” he said in an interview with TexasGOPVote.
He also feels strongly about stepping up to fight the socialist movement that is gaining in support from many democrat lawmakers and candidates. He believes limited government, free enterprise and the economic opportunity that follows are critical to upholding the American dream.
“This is America, and it’s important to me that we fight for the American dream, that no matter where you started in life, as long as you work hard, you can finish anywhere. I think part of maintaining that American dream is free enterprise and limited government….You have to work for it. Nothing is going to be given to you, nor should it. We want to have an equal playing field but it should be on the individual. People come from all over the world to America. What do they look for in America, what’s so special about us? We’re the land of opportunity, and once we start taking away that opportunity, we start to unravel. What scares me to no end is this socialist movement that is coming out of the shadows and into the mainstream on the left side. It’s very disruptive. We’re not talking about slightly changing the system we have, we’re talking about completely destroying it and recapturing it in a different image. Here’s the deal: we are a successful nation. The American spirit is alive and well and we’re thriving…one thing I’ll be fighting against is this socialist movement,” he said.
Gonzales also places a great deal of importance on God and family. “God plays an important role in my life. I have 5 children, God and family are everything to me. Creating a positive family environment that goes beyond just your nuclear family and extends in how we will save this country from a lot of the chaos that is occurring. Getting back to the basics, just loving each other, taking care of each other, and nurturing each other is one thing that is extremely important to me. My legislative priorities are going to be pro family,” he said.
From Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, to Central Command in Florida, to an enlisted defense fellow, Gonzales believes his experience in the Navy will help him as a lawmaker because it taught him how policy directly impacts those who are doing the work. “I started diving into the policy angle of it and that’s when I started realizing, wait a second here, all the policy that’s happening at a higher level is directly impacting those boots on the ground,” he said.
Gonzales also has experience working as a staffer for Senator Marco Rubio for a year and a half, from which he says he learned about the legislative process and culture in Washington DC.
“What I got to see and understand is the legislative process. One of the areas that I’m most proud of is our work on the VA Accountability Act. Here we were working hand and hand with President Trump’s administration on passing this bill, and it was this staple legislation his first year in office. It allowed the VA the tools it needed to tighten up, reform and make things more streamlined.
Another one is the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA. That just taught me how you needed to work it, you needed to understand the process. Having a good foundation as far as principals and philosophy is good, but if you don’t understand the culture and the environment [on Capitol Hill] it’s going to be very difficult for you to join the team. I’ve never served in public office before, but I have that experience as a senate staffer that I’m going to take with me, and my time fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that I’m going to take with me to the hill,” he said.
As a potential first-time elected official, Gonzales believes he will bring a fresh perspective and approach to Congress.
“I got to see first-hand all these different legislators and how much they had changed. I saw that and I go, wait a second here. This is the reason why our country is being torn apart. You have this political rhetoric that is ripping us apart, and I think it’s important for us, especially as conservatives, it’s important for us to hold our conservative values by bringing new blood and new ideas to the table, that we are willing to fight for our beliefs, but at the same time they’re not polluted by this environment. What I bring is a different perspective on things, and this is the biggest takeaway: I am a pragmatic leader. I look at how do I get the job done, and I think that’s what Congress needs,” Gonzales stated.
Gonzales says national security needs to be an absolute priority. He believes his background as a veteran and a cryptologist will help him with uphold this responsibility of the federal government, especially in the cyber field.
“I didn’t grow up going ‘hey I’m going to be a cryptologist when I grow up;’ God just kind of put me on that path. But it has allowed me to become an expert in the cyber field. A lot of my focus has been on national defense and national security, especially early in my career in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was focused on that. You look at it now, cyber operations is in every industry. From banking, to real estate and education, every industry is in need of this skill set…One thing that I would like to do is build upon what Congressman Will Hurd has started on some of these initiatives and grow them out because I look at cyber security, for example. Those are high skill, high paying jobs where folks can really grow a family and be able to earn a livable wage, and that’s one thing I think I can bring to this district,” he said.
With immigration and border security consistently ranking among the top issues for Republican voters, and CD-23 containing the largest portion of US border of any congressional district in the US, Gonzales says he will take a sensible stance on immigration policy that starts with border security.
“I’ve been around the world twice over, and I’ve seen border situations all over the world, and every country in the world focuses on sovereignty, and the rule of law is important. The United States is no different. It’s important that we secure our borders. It’s very simple: families want security, they want prosperity and opportunity… Border security is extremely integral to national security, but it doesn’t stop with just a wall. It’s a lot more complicated than that. You have to add the manpower piece and make sure you have the proper amount of support there. You have to add the technology piece. If that wasn’t difficult enough, you have to do that all without disrupting trade, without destroying Texas’ economy. Look, the Texas economy is thriving, we’re doing fantastic. We need to ensure our security and secure our borders without disrupting our economy,” he said.
Once the border is secure, Gonzales says he would also work to pass immigration reform that includes a method for DACA recipients to earn legal status, something Congress has failed to do for many years.
“Congress will punt it the first chance they get; if it was a first down they would punt it if they could. They look for every opportunity to put it on somebody else, but this is Congress’ job. We go back to the polarization. There’s not enough statesmen who will come together and go ‘hey, look this is us, we’re not going to punt on first down, we’re going to go for it on fourth down’ type of deal. That’s the mentality we need to have and change in there. As far as the DACA recipients, President Trump was very vocal on increasing that number, and I look at these folks and I look at America and I go ‘well what makes us special, beyond the free enterprise and the limited government?’ It is a beacon of hope for those that can strive for freedom and democracy and prosperity. These DACA recipients, many of them in many cases are trying to achieve exactly that. Do we need to have a process for it? Does it need to be transparent? Does it need to be vetted? Absolutely. I think the spirit of the DACA recipients is part of the American dream,” he said.
A key factor for Republican voters in the CD 23 primary elections will be the winnability of their candidate in the November elections. Current incumbent Republican Representative Will Hurd has held the seat for two cycles, but he is not seeking reelection, so the seat is up for grabs and will be hotly contested.
Gonzales fundraised $100,000 in his first month of running for office after he retired from the Navy a month ago, showing he is rapidly gaining support. Gonzales believes he can beat his primary opponents, Alma Arredando-Lynch and Raul Reyes Jr. in March, and the victor of the Democrat primary between Rosalinda Ramos Abuabara, Gina Ortiz Jones, and Liz Wahl in November.
“I can win and I’m a winner. I’ve won at every level, did not matter where I started, I won. I am relentless. Nobody out-works me, I hit it from every angle. Everybody always wants to talk about politics and this is a swing district and how are you going to do this, and the strategy in it. Step one is people have to like you. They have to like you, they have to trust you, and they have to believe that you are genuine, and I have all three of those things. So what I want to do is get in front and work my tail off and show people that I am going to represent them and their needs in DC. I can put on a suit, go into a board room or the Capitol, fight for them, understand the legislative process, and I can come home, put on jeans and stand before them and be responsible for my actions," Gonzales explained.
"One thing that I will do, and this is a promise: every week I will meet with constituents in the state and hear their voices, because guess what: Once I get elected, I work for them, and I need to hear their voices and be accountable to the constituents,” he said.