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Gina Ortiz Jones Leads Dem Primary For TX-23; Gonzalez and Reyes Head To GOP Runoff

Early voting for the 2020 Presidential Primary starts Feb. 18 for Bexar County voters. | Illustration by Kathleen Creedon
Illustration by Kathleen Creedon

Updated Wednesday morning, with about 99% of counties statewide and polling locations reporting.

Voters in Congressional District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, faced crowded fields in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Three-term Congressman Will Hurd, the only Republican representing a district on the U.S.-Mexico border, is not running for re-election, leaving the swing district wide open.

Hurd is part of a wave of Republican U.S. Representatives who opted not to run for re-election this year.

Gina Ortiz Jones, who came within a thousand votes of defeating Hurd in the 2018 general election, won the Democratic primary. The Air Force veteran and first-generation American raised nearly $2.7 million in campaign contributions. Her four competitors on the Democratic ballot have raised less than $36,000 combined.

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Credit Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones

Jones said Texans who voted for Hurd in 2018 should vote for her this November if they want the country to move forward.

“And if you want somebody that is going to fight to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, that's me," she said. "Do you want somebody that's going to make sure that we have to have an immigration policy that reflects our values? I'm that person.”

Jones says there are clear differences between her and whoever the Republicans nominate.

“Because look, we know how that person is going to vote on health care," she said. "We know how that person is going to vote on this wall. We know how that person is going to frankly, be silent as this president takes steps that actually threaten our national security.”

On the Republican side, Navy veteran Tony Gonzales was endorsed by Will Hurd. But he faced a strong challenge from Raul Reyes, an Air Force veteran from Castroville. They may head into a runoff on May 26.

Gonzales was realistic about the difficult road ahead. "[District 23] is always as hard as can be. There are no shortcuts to victory," he said. "So we've always prepared for that, right? Me and my team are ready to just continue to move forward to victory."

Reyes said Gonzales's money and high-profile endorsements came from establishment Republicans. He expected popular support for his campaign.

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Credit Dominic Anthony | Texas Public Radio
Republican Tony Gonzales

"So I don't know that I'm surprised," he said. "I think people are seeing it for what it is. This is establishment versus grassroots, and we’re the grassroots."

Gonzales thought Jones embraces socialist values.

"This district does not represent socialist values," he said. "It's a conservative district in nature. You know, you may be a Democrat. You may be a Republican. You may be an independent, but there's conservative values there."

Reyes agreed.

"They don't match up at all with the constituency here in District 23. We’re center right here," he said. "The Democrat Party that she represents -- now the socialist Democrat Party now with Bernie Sanders -- is not going to do well here."

The winner of the Republican runoff on May 26 will face Jones in November.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille.
Dominic Anthony can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony.