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Former Bonilla Staffer Sues Texas Congressional Hopeful Tony Gonzales Over Unpaid Fees


Tony Gonzales is in a runoff for the Republican candidacy to represent Texas' 23rd District. - TWITTER / @TONYGONZALES4TX
  • Twitter / @TonyGonzales4TX
  • Tony Gonzales is in a runoff for the Republican candidacy to represent Texas' 23rd District.
Saying he was stiffed on payments for campaign work, a political consultant who once worked for U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, has sued Tony Gonzales, one of two GOP hopefuls vying to represent Texas' hotly contested 23rd Congressional District.

In a suit filed in Bexar County District Court, Phil Ricks — a former staffer for Bonilla, a Republican who represented the district from 1993 to 2007 — said Gonzales declined to make good on $11,500 owed for his work.

Gonzales will face Raul Reyes Jr. in the July 14 runoff to determine which will run against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones in the fall.

“Phil was a campaign volunteer last fall for a few weeks," Gonzales spokesman Matt Mackowiak told the Current via email. "Frankly, his performance did not meet expectations. He was never offered a job, and there was never a contract with the campaign. He is now a paid campaign staffer for our opponent. This lawsuit has no merit whatsoever.”

However, Frank Lopez Jr., Reyes' campaign manager, denied that Ricks has ever been on its payroll. He wouldn't say whether the consultant ever done volunteer work for the campaign.

"He's not paid staff," Lopez said. "That's blatantly untrue by the Gonzales camp."

The 23rd District, which includes San Antonio and large swath of the Texas-Mexico border, has frequently flipped between Republican and Democratic control. Last cycle, Jones came within 1,000 votes of ousting incumbent U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who's retiring from Congress.

Perhaps reflecting the small world of South Texas politics, the attorney representing Ricks in the lawsuit is Quico Canseco, who also represented the 23rd District as a Republican from 2011-2013. Canseco said he reluctantly took the case because Ricks is an old friend.

"He was hired by Mr. Gonzales at the beginning, and then Mr. Gonzales refused to pay him," Canseco said. "What's fair is fair. I mean, we've got to pay our bills. We all do."

Political observers consider Gonzales the favorite to pick up the Republican nomination for the district. He's won campaign endorsements from Hurd and prominent GOP figures, including former U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and retired U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.

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