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December 4, 2020 10:30 am

Military Veteran Tony Gonzales, an Advocate of Peace Through Strength

avatar by Jackson Richman / JNS.org

Congressman-elect Tony Gonzales (R-Texas). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Despite their attempts, Democrats did not flip any Republican seats in Texas in the Nov. 3 elections. This is especially true in the state’s 23rd Congressional District, which is a swing district that has been represented for almost five years by retiring Rep. Will Hurd.

Hurd’s successor, Tony Gonzales, won with 50.6 percent of the vote, while his Democratic opponent, Gina Jones, won 46.6 percent.

Gonzales can be described as an American success story. He related a traumatic childhood—abandoned at two months old by his father, his mother remarrying when he was 6 and spending time in a battered women’s shelter. He said he has lived on his own since he was 15.

Now in his early 40s and married with six children, the incoming legislator is no stranger to foreign policy, having served in the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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In an interview with JNS on Nov. 10, Gonzales noted that the United States and Israel share values such as innovation and free enterprise.

Gonzales went on a 10-day trip to Israel with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he was a National Security Fellow, in October 2018, five months after the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was his first time in the Jewish state.

“We went from the northernmost part to the southernmost part and everywhere in between,” he said. “You had a real opportunity to meet with various different leaders, not only in government but in business and culture. It was very helpful for me.”

Based on his 20-year military career—18 of those years were on the battlefield—Gonzales said he’s “always been an advocate of peace through strength,” though he cautioned that “being at war constantly is not ideal.”

“I look for opportunities to create peace, and I look for partners that can kind of help with that,” he said.

Still, he wouldn’t go as far as to support Trump’s moves to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

“We absolutely have to have a presence in the Middle East and elsewhere,” said Gonzales. “If you leave a vacuum, that vacuum will be filled by other enemies, so that’s dangerous in itself.”

Gonzales acknowledged, though, that US troop levels in the Middle East don’t necessarily need to be at the high levels they were early on in places throughout the region.

Warm relations with the Jewish community’

On the issue of antisemitism, Gonzales said “there’s no room for it” and called for leaders, including lawmakers, to combat it.

“If we don’t put the spark out, it turns into a forest fire,” he said. “So we absolutely have to condemn any sort of antisemitism in our country and elsewhere. There’s no room for it in America, and there’s no room for it around the world either.”

Gonzales, whose state enacted a law in 2017 to prohibit virtually all contractors from partaking in the anti-Israel BDS movement, said he would support such legislation on the federal level.

A Catholic, he said he has “always had warm relations with the Jewish community.”

He also mentioned that two of his sons attended the Barshop Jewish Community Center of San Antonio.

“It’s important for people to be respectful of other cultures, and what I’ve learned in that experience is while there may be a lot of differences, there’s a whole lot of similarities as well,” he said. “Especially within the Hispanic community or culture, kind of based on family and faith.”

Gonzales’s district is more than 68 percent Hispanic. He is one of four new Hispanic Republicans elected this year to Congress.

“I’m excited to highlight my culture and upbringing,” he said. “I think that’s important to the Republican Party, but I think it’s more important to America in general that we have members of Congress that look like their districts.”

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