Party-Whipped Texan Leans Into Primary: Ballots & Boundaries

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There’s no clearer “y’all come run against this guy” than for the Texas Republican Party to approve a censure resolution declaring that a sitting congressman is “discouraged from participating in the 2024 Republican Party Primary.”

In just a matter of days, two primary opponents stepped forward to challenge Rep. Tony Gonzales. His declared 2024 rivals are Julie Clark, the chair of the Medina County Republican Party, and Victor Avila, a retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

“They better lace ‘em up tight. I’ll take them to the deep end of the political pool and I’ll drown ‘em,” Gonzales told Bloomberg Government.

Gonzales was among the 14 House Republicans who voted for a gun-safety package in the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting in his 23rd District. He also voted counter to most Republicans when he voted to protect same-sex marriage. Then he was the lone Republican vote against the new House GOP majority’s rules package.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Congressional Hispanic Conference Co-chair Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) speaks during a February 2023 news conference at the U.S. Capitol.

The Texas GOP’s resolution also rebuked Gonzales for opposing a border security bill (H.R. 29) sponsored by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who represents a neighboring district. Gonzales’s 23rd District runs from San Antonio to El Paso and hugs most of Texas’ border with Mexico.

Avila, who finished fifth in a seven-way 2022 Republican primary for Texas land commissioner, said on Fox News Thursday he’s running for Congress “to actually bring the bills forward for border security.”

Texas’ 23rd became more GOP-friendly after Republican-controlled redistricting. In the 2022 elections, it voted 55%-44% for Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and 56%-39% to re-elect Gonzales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

“There’s nothing easy about this place, but I’m 5-0 for a reason. So I welcome any challengers,” said Gonzales, who had to win a primary runoff to get on the November ballot in 2020. — Emily Wilkins and Greg Giroux

More House ’24

In Pennsylvania and other battleground states, Democrats are redoubling their populist rhetoric as they seek to win back disaffected working class voters frustrated by the loss of manufacturing jobs, rising prices and the economic dislocation caused by the pandemic.

“If that isn’t part of our central identity, then we’re doing it wrong,” Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.) said in an interview. READ MORE from Zach C. Cohen.

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State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who fell short by 15 points last year in a bid for Pennsylvania governor, told Politico the seat held by Sen. Bob Casey (D) seat is on his mind, and referred to the people who voted for him as “a movement of 2.2 million.” So of course we asked the recruiter-in-chief for Senate Republicans how Mastriano 2.0 sounds to him.

“He demonstrated already the inability to win a general election by a wide margin once,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “I want to see candidates that can win a primary and a general.”

Interviewed in Pittsburgh, Sam DeMarco, the chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party, pointed out the financial mismatch in Mastriano’s run for governor. “I don’t think there’s any appetite for Doug Mastriano for US Senate amongst knowledgeable Republicans here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after viewing the campaign that he ran as the gubernatorial nominee,” DeMarco said. The Democratic winner, Josh Shapiro, was able to spend 10 times as much as Mastriano, the Associated Press reported. — Zach C. Cohen

VERMONT: Mysterious Sanders
Wondering when and whether Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will declare his re-election intentions? Join the club. Even his inner circle of aides and allies hasn’t been clued in, New York Magazine reported.

WEST VIRGINIA: Manchin-Biden Friction
While other Democratic incumbents in Trump-friendly states — Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana — have announced reelection campaigns, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) is in no hurry.

He had $9.5 million in his campaign account at the end of 2022, but says he won’t make any announcements until the end of the year. “We’ll just have to see what the lay of the land is,” he said.

Bloomberg’s Steven T. Dennis took an inventory of Manchin’s growing list of conflicts with the positions preferred by President Joe Biden. Today’s development: Manchin Threatens More Biden Nominees.

Ballot Issues

Now that Oklahomans rejected an effort to let anyone 21 years and older possess cannabis, here’s where attention will turn:

  • Ohio voters could be asked to decide whether possessing up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or 15 grams of concentrate should be legal. That proposal, which also would let the state collect a 10% tax, has been submitted to the GOP-controlled Legislature. If lawmakers don’t act on it by April, backers would have to collect about 124,000 valid voter signatures to make it eligible for the November 2023 ballot.
  • An effort to place legalization onto Florida’s 2024 ballot is being backed by the cannabis company Trulieve, which so far has contributed over $20 million to the campaign. Supporters have gathered roughly half of the required signatures. The measure would allow Floridians to carry up to three ounces and would need 60% of voter approval to become law.
  • Activists in Nebraska are trying to gather over 1.2 million signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot. That proposal includes no tax component. It simply states that “all persons have the right to use all plants in the genus Cannabis.” — Tiffany Stecker

A proposed ballot initiative is moving through the state House in Annapolis. It would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. Maryland Matters

A new effort has begun in Missouri to try to get an abortion question onto the 2024 ballot. Backers are awaiting approval of summary language and a fiscal analysis, after which they can begin trying to collect signatures. Their goal is to directly ask voters to put abortion rights into the state Constitution, including outlawing penalties for both patients seeking reproductive-related care and medical providers. — Associated Press

And the opposite dynamic is playing out in Mississippi, where lawmakers are working on reviving a ballot initiative process. The measure ready for final negotiations would ban people from putting abortion laws or budget proposals on the statewide ballot. — AP

Final Thought

Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Fla.) is one of the few members of Congress to not just run in an election, but to run one. Check out her interview with Zach C. Cohen.


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(Editor’s note: Last week’s newsletter was updated to reflect Rep. Ami Bera’s current role with the New Democrat Coalition. The initial version used his former title.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at; Emily Wilkins in Washington at; Zach C. Cohen in Washington at; Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Bennett Roth at

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