We knew it was coming, we just didn't know it would be this soon.
Pete Gallego, the Alpine-based Democrat whose sprawling congressional district extends from San Antonio to El Paso, didn't make it out of the supposed honeymoon phase of his freshman congressional term before drawing a 2014 challenger. Dr. Robert Lowry, a Fair Oaks Ranch physician, filed a “statement of candidacy” with the Federal Election Commission on March 7 for Gallego's District 23 seat. A gangly, slow-talking acolyte of Ron and Rand Paul, Lowry, 52, has fancied the District 23 seat for several years. In 2010, he ran a surprisingly strong race in the District 23 Republican primary, drawing more than 22 percent of the vote and finishing a solid third in a five-candidate field. When the two top finishers — former CIA agent Will Hurd and local attorney Francisco “Quico” Canseco (the eventual winner) — made it to a runoff, Lowry's endorsement was much-coveted, and he threw his support behind Hurd. Lowry also flirted with an intraparty challenge to Canseco last year, announcing his candidacy in January 2012, and changing his mind two months later. While the prospect of a Lowry candidacy surely won't make Gallego cower in fear, the doctor's filing looks like the first salvo in what should be a lively, high-stakes battle for the District 23 Republican nomination. How do we know it will be lively? Because District 23 is perpetually up for grabs. Neither party can claim more than a temporary hold on it, and neither party will ever go down without a nasty, well-funded fight. Simply put, San Antonio has two types of congressional representatives. Joaquín Castro and Lamar Smith have their seats for as long as they want them; Gallego, on the other hand, lives on the hot seat. Representing District 23 means an acceptance that the fickle finger of political fate can turn on you at any moment. It means that you best avoid signing a long-term lease in the Beltway. With that in mind, Gallego seems to be relishing Lowry's challenge and using it as a fundraising tool. On Saturday, Gallego broke the news in an email to his supporters (subject line: “I already have an opponent”), casting Lowry's entry into the race as a sign that “extremists are already threatened by the example we are setting.” Gallego urged supporters to “make a donation of $3, $15, $25 or more so that we can continue our work.” Lowry is a strict constitutional conservative who showed in 2010 that he appeals to tea party activists and the libertarian wing of the GOP, although he's probably too innately independent to attach himself completely to any movement. In 2010, then-U.S. Rep. (and libertarian darling) Ron Paul embraced Lowry's candidacy, with a from-one-doctor-to-another endorsement. Paul vouched for Lowry's small-government bona fides by calling him a “Ron Paul guy all the way” and dismissed Canseco (who served one congressional term before Gallego ousted him last November) as a “party parrot” and a “useful idiot.” Well, at least he gave him credit for being useful.