Rep. Tony Gonzales projected winner of closely watched Texas primary runoff

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) -- Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales narrowly defeated his GOP opponent in Tuesday's high-profile runoff race to represent Texas' district that includes the cities of Uvalde and Eagle Pass -- with only a few hundred votes between them.

The Associated Press projected that Gonzales will win the Republican primary runoff election for Texas' 23rd Congressional District. He faced off against Brandon Herrera, an activist and internet personality who runs a YouTube channel called "The AK Guy" that features videos of Herrera testing out and building guns.

There appears to be a razor-thin margin between the candidates. As of Wednesday morning, according to unofficial election results from the Texas Secretary of State, Gonzales leads with 50.69% of the vote, with around 15,000 votes; followed by Herrera with 49.31%, around 14,600 votes. (Voter turnout was relatively low, as it is for many runoffs in general.)

Gonzales declared victory hours before the projection.

"The future of America remains as bright as ever. Thank you #TX23 for continuing to place your faith in me," Gonzales wrote on X on Tuesday night.

It is possible that Herrera could request a recount, as the difference between the vote count is less than 10%, which aligns with Texas' recount rules. That endeavor would be at his own expense and he would only get the money back if the recount changed the result.

Gonzales found himself in such a narrow runoff after getting only 45% of the vote in Texas' March 5 Republican primary. In Texas local or state elections, the state holds runoff elections if no candidate gets a majority of the vote (over 50%). Herrera received about 25% of the vote in March.

The subsequent runoff pitted Gonzales, a moderate-leaning Republican, against Herrera, a newcomer aligned with the more hard-line wing of the party.

Gonzales, who was first elected to the Republican-leaning seat in 2020, has faced criticism from the state's Republican Party and from others on the right, including the Texas Republican Party, ever since he voted for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gun control legislation in 2022, which Congress passed after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

Gonzales' vote on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was a subject of attacks from Herrera, who campaigned heavily on gun ownership rights.

Gonzales has continued to defend his record, including on the border, and his moderate tone on gun control legislation, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Asked on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday whether he thinks the vote eventually caused the runoff, Gonzales said, "I am in a runoff for a reason. Part of that was that vote. And, you know what, I knew it at the time."

The incumbent still received strong backing from the Republican establishment during his run, including endorsements from Speaker Mike Johnson, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other well-known statewide and national officials.

Herrera had picked up support from some key Republican figures, including Reps. Matt Gaetz and Bob Good.

Gonzales had a very strong fundraising advantage over Herrera, and has benefited more than his opponent from outside spending, including from super PACs that placed ads on airwaves and online, according to financial filings from this past cycle (both before and after the initial primary) and an analysis by OpenSecrets.

Herrera framed the heavy spending supporting Gonzales as an indication of his own momentum and of Gonzales' desperation.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024 at 1:34PM by Oren Oppenheim, ABC News Permalink