Outpolling her Democratic rival by 66 to 34 percent, U.S. Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones declared victory and accepted Rick Treviño’s concession just after 8:30 p.m. on election night in the party’s runoff for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District.
Ortiz Jones will face U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican who has represented the district since 2015, in the Nov. 6 midterm election. District 23, considered a swing district, spans from San Antonio to El Paso and includes hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The district is 70 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
“I think what we proved tonight is we are ready to beat Will Hurd,” said Ortiz Jones. She attributed her win over Treviño to her block-walking, her campaign staff, and a broad coalition of supporters. “On to November. Let’s get it done.”
Hurd responded to Ortiz Jones’ victory, saying: “Voters in this district know that I’ve spent the last three years listening, working hard and delivering the results for the district. They will not support a candidate that puts partisanship and the wishes of [Democratic Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi ahead of what’s best for our families, workers and small businesses. I’ll continue to proudly run on a record of fighting for Texas values, a stronger economy and a strong U.S. military.”
Ortiz was long considered the party favorite over Treviño. With all 1,117 precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, she had 68 percent of the vote compared to Treviño’s 32 percent.
Bexar County, the most populous county in the district, was the first of the district’s 29 counties to report its early vote totals Tuesday evening. In Bexar County alone, Ortiz Jones outpolled Treviño 85 to 15 percent. Click here to watch the results come in on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
Those numbers are an exaggeration of the results of March’s primary election that drew four Democratic contenders; Ortiz Jones received more than double the votes (41 percent) that Treviño did (17 percent). If elected, Ortiz Jones, who is a first-generation Filipina-American, would be the first openly gay congresswoman of color from Texas.
When asked before Treviño’s concession remarks about what issues she believed resonated most with voters, she said, “I think folks were very excited that, frankly, somebody that has the life experiences they have was stepping up.”
For the past 11 years, neither party has held the seat for more than four years.
Hurd, the first black Republican from Texas to be elected to Congress, brought decades of experience in national security and cybersecurity to the seat as a former Central Intelligence Agency undercover officer and private sector advisor. National defense and cybersecurity have been his priorities, as he sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform and chairs the subcommittee on Information Technology.
Ortiz Jones, however, touts her own experience in national security, as a former Air Force intelligence officer who served in the Iraq war and also was an advisor for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
“My record of putting country over everything else [is something] folks are very motivated by,” she said in an interview with the Rivard Report.
“We’ve got a president [who is] frankly comfortable tweeting us into a war – who knows what,” Ortiz Jones said. “[People are] also just as concerned that their representative [Hurd] is not speaking up.”
Her campaign has received considerable support from Democratic political action committees such as Serve America Victory fund and VoteVets, which help elect veterans to congress, and Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice women.
As of May 2, Ortiz Jones’ campaign had collected $1.1 million in contributions compared to Treviño’s $41,600, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Hurd, who handily defeated his primary opponent Dr. Alma Arredondo-Lynch by a 60-point margin in March, had collected more than $2.3 million as of March 31, and maintained $1.5 million cash on hand.
Ortiz Jones’ PAC support, Treviño has said, makes her the “establishment” candidate. His experience as an educator at Sam Houston High School, made him more “relatable” to voters, he has said, as opposed to Washington, D.C., insiders with ties to intelligence agencies.
After supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Treviño ran unsuccessfully for the District 6 seat on San Antonio’s City Council. He continued to receive support from Our Revolution, an offshoot of Sanders’ progressive campaign.
During his concession speech, Treviño said he was proud of his grassroots progressive campaign that he said reflected the issues that many district voters wanted to focus on.
He described Jones as an “establishment” candidate whose campaign accepted significant contributions from political action committees, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“I didn’t sell out, I didn’t take money from anybody,” Treviño said, sparking applause. “We saw the DCCC come into this race just like they have in other races. They meddled in our democracy, they tipped the scale in favor of Gina.”
Treviño said he does not know what will come next for him politically. His Congressional campaign follows his 2017 bid for the San Antonio City Council District 6 seat.
But he pledged to remain active in local progressive issues. He’s scheduled to speak at a “Medicare for All” march and rally set for June 16 at Hemisfair.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I really believe in these issues.”
Just before 7:30 p.m., former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, the Alpine Democrat who represented District 23 for one term before being ousted by Hurd in 2014, dropped by Treviño’s watch party. Gallego lost a rematch with Hurd in 2016.
Gallego endorsed no candidates in this year’s Democratic primary, but he said he wanted to personally complement Treviño, adding that the San Antonio educator’s campaign has surpassed many people’s expectations.
“I was impressed by, frankly, how he’s made it this far with so few resources,” Gallego said. “He’s done it with hard work. The door-to-door, person-to-person campaigning, I find really admirable. There are few people who expected him to be in the runoff.”
Gallego, who also stopped by Ortiz Jones’ party, said general races for District 23 have recently been very competitive, often one of the most-watched Congressional contests nationwide, because of the district population’s diversity and the national political landscape.
“It really depends on who gets the voters out,” he said. “This is a great time for a Democrat to run for Congress in the 23rd District. The national environment is such that it’s just a good environment to run in.”
Editor-in-Chief Beth Frerking and freelance reporter Edmond Ortiz contributed to this article.