Brandon Herrera Desires To Go From Capturing Weapons On YouTube To Representing Uvalde In Congress – The Boston Courier

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SAN ANTONIO — Brandon Herrera is a 28-year-old YouTube gun influencer with greater than 3.4 million subscribers and half a billion views. In a single 17-minute video, Herrera, in a good black T-shirt and backward baseball cap, reenacts the killing of President John F. Kennedy Jr. utilizing a reproduction head that accommodates a condom’s price of faux blood.

“That just feels real icky,” Herrera says within the video after blood spatters all over the place.

Herrera, aka The AK Man, who manufactures weapons in addition to shoots them on-line, can be working in a major Tuesday that would knock out a sitting member of Congress in a district that solely two years in the past noticed a horrific mass capturing at an elementary college in Uvalde, Texas.

Herrera has nearly 500 movies on his YouTube channel, with titles starting from “Testing the Gun That Killed Abraham Lincoln” to “SUPER CURSED GUN IMAGES,” “HORRIBLY CURSED GUN IMAGES” and “LITERALLY CURSED GUN IMAGES.” In a 2022 video that has nearly 2 million views, Herrera assessments out a submachine gun from Nazi Germany and goose steps to a marching track generally related to Nazi troopers. (Herrera, who appears to be doing this all for the lolz, tells viewers in the event that they don’t see something unsuitable with a track about “a soldier missing a pretty girl at home,” they need to “go ahead and hit that subscribe button.”)

And on Monday, Herrera, in denims and carrying brown western boots, stepped out of a white Dodge Challenger with Oregon plates and strode into the Thirsty Horse Saloon, a bar in northern San Antonio, for a noon rally to kick off early voting.

Herrera is competing in an election Tuesday in opposition to Rep. Tony Gonzales, a average who defied the Republican Occasion on gun management and immigration, incomes him a rebuke from the Texas GOP and this uncommon major that may finish his profession.

Herrera’s candidacy poses the unusual query of whether or not a candidate whose total persona is making viral content material about weapons is electable in a district that’s solely reasonably Republican and that noticed one of many worst mass shootings in U.S. historical past — and that’s additionally on edge from a surge in illegal border crossings.

Herrera denied Gonzales, a 43-year-old veteran, an outright majority in a splintered March major, triggering the two-person race for the nomination to face a Democrat. A Herrera win Tuesday can be dangerous for Gonzales and probably worse for the GOP’s endangered Home majority. The twenty third Congressional District in West Texas is a majority Latino swing seat usually held by moderates — not superstar “gunfluencers” backed by Matt Gaetz, the rabble-rousing Florida Republican who was there campaigning with Herrera Monday on the Thirsty Horse.

Gonzales, a two-term incumbent who’s rubbed a few of his Republican colleagues the unsuitable method in D.C. (he referred to as Gaetz a “scumbag” on CNN final month) has raised greater than 3 times as a lot as Herrera. However Herrera has an enormous following of people that love weapons and who love him, and it’s exhausting to foretell how that may find yourself factoring into Tuesday’s election, particularly with the anti-Gonzales vote now consolidated round Herrera.

Gonzales, a former grasp chef within the Navy, has seized on a crude joke Herrera made about veteran suicide. “I often think of putting a gun in my mouth … so I’m basically an honorary veteran,” Herrera (who, to be clear, is just not an precise veteran) mentioned on a podcast, a joke he’s claimed was taken out of context. Gonzales didn’t discover it humorous. “There’s parts of the country where that’s cute or funny, but it’s not cute or funny to a veteran who’s gone through this,” Gonzales instructed reporters after his marketing campaign introduced it was utilizing the comment in an assault advert.

Herrera has gotten on the radar of the pro-Israel foyer, which launched its personal advert marketing campaign in opposition to Herrera final week, saying he “glorifies Nazis and mocks the Holocaust,” in accordance with Jewish Insider, which additionally reported that Herrera was a member of a bunch that celebrates the Confederacy and is registered to vote at an deal with in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Herrera tweeted in February 2021 that he was about to maneuver to Texas, and he says now that he lives in San Antonio. Requested about his residency and the Challenger with out-of-state plates, Herrera’s marketing campaign instructed me: “Ever heard of a rental car? The campaign is not available for comment.”

In a really transient interview on the Thirsty Horse, Herrera, who had none of his zany YouTuber power in particular person, claimed Gonzales was afraid to interact with him on coverage discussions. “It says a lot because Tony can’t attack me on policy,” mentioned Herrera, who wore darkish Ray Bans as he nursed a neon-yellow drink in a plastic cup. Herrera is bearded with a head of slicked-back slate hair, and he carries himself with the boldness of somebody who does one thing on digital camera for a dwelling. “All he can do is try to take me out of context or twist jokes, and it’s not working.”

A couple of minutes later, a lady with an icy blond bob and carrying a “Let’s go Brandon” shirt had two males present me out of the bar, saying the occasion had been “closed” to journalists.

Marketing campaign indicators alongside a stretch of U.S. 90 between San Antonio and Uvalde.

Herrera is right here at present primarily as a result of Gonzales opposed the GOP’s border safety invoice earlier this 12 months and voted with Democrats to go the primary gun management measures out of Congress in many years after a shooter in his district killed 19 youngsters and two adults at an elementary college on Could 24, 2022. The gun reform legislation turned a watershed second for Congress, which handed bipartisan laws to shut the “boyfriend loophole” and increase background checks — largely due to what occurred in Uvalde.

However for the individuals who might ship Herrera to Congress, the vote was seen as caving in to Democrats on gun management, which is basically not up for debate, even after a horrific capturing.

“These politicians that came here [after the shooting] were just pushing [gun control] down their throats,” mentioned Donna Williams, the elected clerk of Uvalde County who, as of final weekend, hadn’t determined who she would vote for Tuesday. Williams, who lives on 6 acres simply outdoors of Uvalde, believes the capturing was a product of psychological sickness and never gun tradition.

Greater than gun rights, although, border safety appears to be the most important issue on this race. The twenty third District is large and sparsely populated, extending from El Paso to San Antonio alongside the Mexico border. Voters right here convey up the document variety of unlawful border crossings within the final 12 months and the phenomenon of “bailouts,” when migrants who’re on the run from police actually bail from a car and trigger harmful high-speed chases.

“They’ll just run and hide, and sometimes the cops find them and sometimes they don’t,” mentioned a enterprise proprietor from Hondo, a small metropolis midway between San Antonio and Uvalde. “Our kids can’t be outside because you never know who’s outside.”

Williams feels most secure carrying a gun always on her property. “They’re breaking into homes, breaking down fences … other states don’t really see what we’re going through.”

Gonzales, whose marketing campaign advertises his endorsement from the union representing U.S. Border Patrol brokers, has stood by his vote in opposition to the Home Republicans’ border invoice, which he argued would shut the door to asylum seekers. Gonzales referred to as the invoice — spearheaded by one other Texan, hard-liner Chip Roy — “un-Christian” and “anti-immigrant” in its strategy to securing the border with Mexico.

Herrera, in the meantime, is a Second Modification absolutist and is evident about the place he stands on techniques to safe the border and pare again immigration. He says he’ll “block any spending bills that do not include finishing the wall, returning to the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, and ending the phony asylum claim racket.”

At left, Brandon Herrera speaks with a supporter at San Antonio's Thirsty Horse Saloon. At right, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida (far right) mingles before the event at the bar.
At left, Brandon Herrera speaks with a supporter at San Antonio’s Thirsty Horse Saloon. At proper, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida (far proper) mingles earlier than the occasion on the bar.

The few individuals I talked to at Herrera’s occasion earlier than getting kicked out have been usually acquainted with the idea of a YouTuber however not Herrera’s content material particularly.

Ben Taylor, a 71-year-old retiree, described it as “edgy” and “not always in the best taste” — and it’s simple to see how somebody who’s 71 wouldn’t essentially be right into a video of Herrera doing a parody of an Eminem track with different “guntubers” as a result of he acquired kicked off Instagram or capturing an AR-50, which, to most of us, is only a very huge gun.

Taylor was nonetheless upset with Gonzales and anxious about border safety and the pressure that an inflow of latest individuals can have on pure assets, particularly the water provide. “I think it says something that someone my age is going to vote for Brandon over Tony,” he mentioned.

In the meantime, a 37-year-old voter named Preston, who didn’t need to share his final identify, mentioned he likes that Herrera, a Gen Zer, “isn’t fossilized.”

Herrera, prepared after two minutes to boot-scoot himself away from our dialog, mentioned it ought to inform the GOP institution one thing that it’s been unable to blunt his momentum.

“It’s not moving the needle the way they want it to, and people are sick of it,” he mentioned, his yellow drink sweating within the noon Texas warmth. “Money doesn’t have as much power in politics in the social media age as they would like.”

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