First Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales

First Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales
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Democrats gained their first candidate Wednesday in a top 2022 House race for a Texas border district.

John Lira, a Marine veteran who served two combat tours in Iraq and a former Small Business Administration official, launched his campaign to challenge Rep. Tony Gonzales (R). Gonzales won his first term in 2020 by 4 points in Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, a seat hotly contested. Democrats are expected to work to flip it next year.

“All my life, I have aspired to give back to the country and people who have invested in me and provided me opportunities to thrive,” Lira said in a statement. “Since returning from combat, I have been dedicated to improving transitional services for veterans and military families and empowering entrepreneurship. Now, I stand ready to answer the next call: serving Texas in Congress."

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Lira hinted that he would criticize Gonzales over the GOP’s response to the coronavirus as well as state Republicans’ response to devastating winter weather that sparked blackouts throughout much of Texas.

“After a pandemic and winter storms hit our community, Tony Gonzales turned his back on us. We can’t afford that kind of failed leadership. My neighbors in this district deserve a fighter in Washington who will focus on the issues that matter — from increasing rural broadband access to growing small businesses, from lowering the cost of health care to ensuring the next generation has access to an education that will give them the skills to succeed,” he said.

Lira said he plans on visiting all of the sprawling district’s 29 counties, though he faces an uphill climb in unseating Gonzales.

Texas’s 23rd Congressional District has eluded Democrats for several consecutive cycles. Former Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R), a moderate, flipped the seat in 2014, ultimately serving three terms. Gonzales won the open seat last year against Gina Ortiz Jones by 4 points despite Democrats prioritizing the seat as a top pickup for the party. 

Beyond the dynamics of the district, the party that holds the White House typically fares poorly in the first midterm of a new administration. 

“John Lira is absolutely wrong for Texas if he wants middle class Texans to pay for Democrats’ socialist agenda that will open our borders, defund the police, raise taxes and kill jobs,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair

The lines of Gonzales’s district are also in flux given the upcoming redistricting process.