U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is endorsing Raul Reyes in the 23rd Congressional District runoff. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is jumping into the Republican primary runoff for Texas’ most competitive congressional seat this fall, going against the candidate favored by retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes) and national GOP leaders.

Saying the district “deserves strong conservative representation,” Cruz is endorsing Raul Reyes over Tony Gonzales for Hurd’s seat – and launching a six-figure TV ad buy backing Reyes, according to details first shared with The Texas Tribune.

Cruz’s TV spot for Reyes is being paid for by the senator’s leadership PAC, the Jobs, Freedom and Security PAC. The 30-second commercial features Cruz speaking direct-to-camera, saying Texas needs to elect “conservative warriors to defeat [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s agenda and show some of our Republicans what a backbone is.”

“That’s why I’m supporting retired Col. Raul Reyes for Congress,” Cruz says. “President Trump needs more congressmen like Col. Reyes, leaders who won’t surrender our border, our sovereignty, our way of life.”

The TV buy starts Wednesday and goes through the July 14 election. Early voting started Monday.

The intervention by Cruz, who has been known to buck his party, puts him opposite a cast of powerful Republicans. In addition to Hurd, Gonzales has also been endorsed by the top two Republicans in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Also, Gonzales has been publicly praised by Tom Emmer, the chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

Gonzales, a former Navy cryptologist, is getting help from the Hurd-backed Future Leaders Fund, which is up on cable with a pro-Gonzales ad similar to one it also ran for him ahead of the primary.

Gonzales finished first in the nine-way primary, earning 28 percent of the vote to Reyes’ 23 percent. Before Hurd announced his retirement last year, Reyes was already challenging the congressman. Gonzales entered the race only after Hurd said he would not seek another term.

The seat is national Democrats’ top target this election cycle in Texas after Hurd’s 2018 challenger, Gina Ortiz Jones, lost by a razor-thin margin. She is running again and already secured her party’s nomination in the March primary.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.

Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders.