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Candidate Forum: Tony Gonzales, Gina Ortiz Jones Neck And Neck In Texas' 23rd Congressional District

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Republican Tony Gonzalez (left) and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones (right)
Courtesy Tony Gonzalez and Gina Ortiz Jones
Republican Tony Gonzalez (left) and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones (right)

Gina Ortiz Jones (D) and Tony Gonzales (R) are in a tight, heatedrace to represent TX-23 — a massive swing district that encompasses counties from San Antonio to the Texas-Mexico border — in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Competition in this battleground district has been rifewith controversy and its outcome will play a role in determining party control of the House. Democrats currently hold 232 seats to Republicans' 198, and all 435 are up for grabs in 2020.

Republican Tony Gonzales is a former Navy cryptologist who teaches counterterrorism, government and political science courses at the University of Maryland. He was endorsed by Trump ahead of the March primary, in which Gonzales narrowly won his party's nomination.

Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones is a former Air Force intelligence officer and if elected, would be the first openly gay woman of color to represent Texas in Congress. She made a close run for TX-23 in 2018 against Rep. Will Hurd, who is not seeking reelection in 2020.

With a Supreme Court confirmation and election underway, the fate of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain. But congressional candidates Tony Gonzales and Gina Ortiz Jones disagree on the importance of healthcare in their district.

Gonzales said he believes that District 23 constituents don’t think the Affordable Care Act works as it should.

“As I've made my way around the district, time and time again, from rural hospitals, to community health clinics, to private practices, to emergency centers, everything in between, this is what I hear: ‘The Affordable Care Act is broken. It does not work,’” Gonzales said.

Jones said healthcare is a bigger issue for District 23 than Gonzales said it is.

“In the most uninsured state in the country, Texas’ 23rd congressional district is one of the most medically underserved parts of the state. And I think it's so critical that we protect and expand the ACA and ensure that we have a public option so that, you know, people will have access to quality affordable health care, even if they've lost their job,” Jones said.

Gonzales also said he believes the federal government should support those negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

“I would love to have Congress pass another stimulus package that would help PPP loans. I think that that saved a lot of companies. There needs to be more of that,” Gonzales said. “There needs to be more of this ‘Hey, how do we all just get through this?’”

Jones agreed, but said it’s an issue of leadership.

“We need leaders that are going to make sure that we're doing everything possible to protect people's lives and livelihoods and holding them accountable when they don't do that. And I look forward to making sure that we get this pandemic under control but also make sure our economic recovery is as inclusive as possible,” Jones said.

Libertarian candidate Beto Villela did not meet TPR's criteriato participate in the forum.

Early voting in Bexar County is Oct. 13-30. Election Day is Nov. 3. More info here.


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Monday, October 26.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon
Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.