Victor Avila, a former special agent in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, announced on Tuesday that he will challenge Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales in the Republican primary for the Lone Star State’s 23rd Congressional District.
His candidacy comes three days after the Republican Party of Texas voted to censure Rep. Gonzales over his opposition to a recent border security bill, as well as his support for same-sex marriage and a gun control bill.
“Being from the border, born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and working most of my law enforcement career on the border, even after my retirement, I continue to be an advocate for border security,” Avila, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds in a cartel ambush that left his partner dead in 2011, told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
“I want to be able to be in a position to make a difference. And unfortunately, the current holder of that position is not doing the job, as a matter of fact, is damaging our country, Texans and the rest of the country, by saying one thing down at the border, but doing completely the opposite in Washington, DC. And that needs to change.”
Texas’ 23rd Congressional District stretches more than 800 miles along the southwest border from western San Antonio to El Paso.
The Texas GOP’s resolution to censure Rep. Gonzales accused him of violating the party’s legislative priority to “secure the border and protect Texans” by opposing a bill in January that would block migrants from entering the U.S. if they could not be detained or placed in a remain-in-Mexico-type program.
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Rep. Gonzales criticized the bill as “un-American,” saying that it would worsen the ongoing border crisis.
“Congressman Gonzales remains focused on securing the border, labeling drug cartels as terrorist organizations, getting America’s economy back on track, and restoring law and order throughout the country,” a spokesperson for Gonzales’ reelection campaign told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
Rep. Gonzales’ district also includes Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were shot and killed last May in the deadliest school shooting in Texas’ history. One month after the massacre, Rep. Gonzales was the only Texas Republican to break with his party in supporting the Safer Communities Act, which incentivizes states to pass red flag laws and expands background checks for individuals between the ages of 18 and 21.
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Avila argued that laws like the Safer Communities Act punish law-abiding citizens and infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
“The criminals will always have access to a gun, and they will always get it no matter what the law is – you can pass 1000 laws – and it will never affect the criminal, but it will affect a law-abiding citizen,” Avila said. “That’s why I oppose those type of laws.”
A spokesperson for Gonzales’ campaign said that the congressman would vote for the bill again today if he could.
“The reality is the Safer Communities Act would have prevented the Uvalde shooting without infringing on Second Amendment rights,” the spokesperson said.
Medina County GOP chairwoman Julie Clark also threw her hat in the ring to challenge Rep. Gonzales on Monday.
Party rules normally require the Texas GOP to remain neutral in primaries, but the censure resolution that was passed on Saturday allows the party to get involved.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, said Tuesday that they will support Gonzales in his reelection bid, calling him a “a valued member of the House majority.”
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