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Home | Tag Archives: Gina Ortiz Jones

Tag Archives: Gina Ortiz Jones

Obama Endorses 9 More Texas Candidates in Midterm Races

Former President Barack Obama has backed nine more Democratic candidates in Texas as part of his second round of midterm endorsements.

The nine candidates include challengers in two of Texas’ most competitive congressional races: Lizzie Fletcher, who is running against U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, and Gina Ortiz Jones, who is taking on U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes.

The Texans that Obama endorsed also include two who are likely to become the state’s first Latina congresswomen: Veronica Escobar, who is running to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and Houston state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, who is vying for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston.

Rounding out the list of Obama’s latest endorsements in Texas are five state House candidates. One is Dallas state Rep. Eric Johnson, who is running for re-election, and the four others are all in races that Democrats are targeting as pick-up opportunities:

  • Ana-Maria Ramos, who is running to unseat state Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas
  • Terry Meza, who is in a rematch with state Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie
  • Rhetta Bowers, who is running against Republican Jonathan Boos for the seat being vacated by outgoing state Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale
  • Julie Johnson, who is challenging state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving

In August, Obama got behind two Texans as part of his first wave of midterm endorsements, backing Colin Allred against U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, and Adrienne Bell against U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood. Allred and Bell were alumni of Obama’s administration and 2012 re-election campaign, respectively.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

In Age of Trump, Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd’s Independence Again on Ballot in 23rd District

VAN HORN — Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, survived a grudge match against his Democratic predecessor to become the first congressman to win re-election to this perennial swing district in eight years, carrying it by some 3,000 votes while Hillary Clinton won it by about 8,000.

It was the most expensive U.S. House race in Texas history, it centered on whether Hurd was as independent as he claimed to be and it became inevitably intertwined with the rollercoaster presidential contest. Weeks before Election Day, a 2005 tape of Donald Trump making vulgar comments about women surfaced, prompting Hurd and some other vulnerable House Republicans across the country to disavow their party’s presidential nominee.

Two years later, Hurd has emerged as arguably the most prominent Republican from Texas willing to split with Trump — or at least strike a different tone — on some key issues, including immigration and Russian interference in the 2016 election. It is a profile that has earned him national attention and bipartisan plaudits — and it has only hardened Democrats’ resolve this November to try to puncture the image he has crafted as a different kind of Republican.

“It’s going to be difficult to make that case because we’ve been proving our independence for three and a half years,” Hurd said defiantly during a recent interview in Alpine as he traveled the district. Taunting his Democratic critics over what he described as a tired attack, Hurd added, “Keep doing it.”

Up against Hurd this time is Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer who made it through a spirited five-way primary in March and less-competitive runoff in May. On the stump, she is a no-nonsense prosecutor of Hurd’s claims to separation from the national Republican Party.

“When I’m in Congress, I’m not going to be writing op-eds, I’m going to be writing legislation,” she recently told a Democratic club when asked about the perception of Hurd as independent. “I’m not going to be outraged on CNN and complicit in Congress.”

A famously fickle district

Ping-ponging between Democratic and Republican control before Hurd won re-election, the 23rd District is famously fickle and was viewed as the only true swing district until this cycle. In November, two other GOP-held districts in Texas — the 7th in Houston and 32nd in Dallas — are newly in play after Trump narrowly lost them in 2016.

But none is quite like the 23rd, a Hispanic-majority district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, covering hundreds of miles of Texas-Mexico border in between for a total area larger than 29 states.

Hurd, a former CIA agent, first ran for the seat in 2010 and did not make it out of the primary. He came back in 2014 and unseated the Democratic incumbent, Pete Gallego, who quickly committed to a rematch two years later. Their 2016 battle was bitter, and Gallego even considered another go last summer before taking a pass.

Since his re-election, the spotlight on Hurd has only grown. He became known to many outside Texas for the first time last year when he teamed up with a Democratic colleague, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, to go on a road trip from San Antonio to Washington.

In the House, he has banded with other moderate Republicans to push for a permanent legislative solution for “Dreamers,” or young people brought to the country illegally as children. And he has spoken out against Trump on a number of issues, more recently slamming the president in a New York Times op-ed for failing to stick up for the U.S. intelligence community and letting himself be “manipulated” by Russian President Vladimir Putin during their July summit.

Jones sought to quash the fanfare surrounding the op-ed by pointing out, among other things, that Hurd missed a House Intelligence Committee vote after the summit where he could have pushed to subpoena the summit translator, a move the Republicans present blocked. To Democrats, it is rebuttals like those that they believe they must hammer nonstop to undermine Hurd’s turns in the spotlight as an independent voice.

Juan Moreno, a Jones volunteer from La Salle County who previously worked for Gallego, said he has been pressing the same piece of advice to local leaders and activists.

“Use Hurd’s record — that’s the best foil that Gina and her campaign could use,” Moreno said. “The guy’s not moderate.”

The hottest issues

Democrats have a counterpoint ready to go for every supposed act of independence by Hurd, but no topic has drawn fiercer claims of hypocrisy than health care. Jones, who has called it the No. 1 issue in the race, is slamming Hurd for voting eight times to undo former President Barack Obama’s signature health law prior to breaking with his party last year to oppose its repeal-and-replace effort, which narrowly passed the House but died in the Senate.

“In your own life, do you look at what somebody did to you eight times or one time?” Jones said in an interview. “I would argue he’s shown us exactly where he is on health care.”

In Alpine, Hurd maintained that the 2017 proposal, the American Health Care Act, was a “substantively different” piece of legislation than the eight previous ones to which Jones refers. It would have gone much further than the prior bills in negatively impacting Medicare, he said.

To be clear, Hurd is also playing offense. He has seized on comments Jones made during the primary expressing openness to another round of Base Realignment and Closure, the process by which the military assesses its base structure that requires congressional approval. Her position drew fire from primary opponent Jay Hulings, who likened it to “playing Russian Roulette with people’s jobs” in San Antonio — Military City USA — and whose criticism now factors prominently into a minute-long TV ad from Hurd.

While insisting she wants to protect jobs and does not support closing military bases, Jones says she believes “we owe it to our military leaders to at least evaluate the information they provide us” and go from there. Opening that door, though, is a step too far for Hurd.

“To even allow it to go forward with the potential to have such a debilitating effect on our communities,” Hurd said in the interview, “is unacceptable.”

Other attacks in the race are falling along familiar lines. On TV, the National Republican Congressional Committee has been bashing Jones as beholden to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who gave $4,000 to Jones’ campaign during the Democratic primary runoff. Jones has said that if Democrats take the House in November, she would want to see who all is running for speaker before making a decision about whether to support Pelosi.

On the road

At the end of every summer, Hurd hits the road for a town hall tour of the district that takes place mostly at Dairy Queens. At each stop on latest swing, which took place throughout last week, Hurd came prepared with a message that acknowledged the economic progress under Trump but did not shy away from the thornier questions percolating among Republicans in Washington.

“The one thing that’s going to get in the way of this super-charged economy is not having the workforce to take advantage of this opportunity,” Hurd said in Fort Davis. “That’s why I think it’s crazy some of the conversations we’re having around immigration. We should not be decreasing the number of immigrants. We should be increasing them — legal immigration.”

Hurd’s stops were filled with reminders of his unique political standing — both the upsides and the downsides. In Marfa, Hurd received a glowing introduction from the Democratic county judge, Cinderela Guevara, who praised his effectiveness as a lawmaker and said his “responsiveness is unparalleled.”

At the same stop, Hurd encountered Rick Treviño, the Democrat whom Jones defeated in their primary’s May runoff. Treviño asked Hurd a series of questions, including how he felt about being a minority in a party that Treviño accused of rallying its base around “cultural provocation.” Hurd, who is black, insisted the GOP was “not homogenous.”

The next morning in Alpine, Hurd fielded a question from a local environmental scientist named Charlie, who said he appreciated Hurd’s record on natural resources but added the congressman seems like he lives “on a lonely island in the Republican Party.” Hurd acknowledged he may be an outlier in his party but argued he can show his party it “can be conservative and protect the environment at he same time.”

Afterward, Charlie, who declined to provide his last name, told reporters he was undecided in the election. While he liked Hurd, Charlie said, he found Jones just as strong on the environment — and unlike with Hurd, he knows for sure her party would prioritize the issue.

Jones also encounters the blurred political lines in the race. Fielding questions earlier this month at a meeting of the Boerne Area Democrats, Jones heard from a woman who expressed exasperation with the mail she was receiving from Hurd touting his support for Medicare. “Is he running as a Democrat? It’s so confusing,” the woman said. “How can we expose the hypocrisy?” Jones said she felt the woman’s frustration — and directed her to a website her campaign had already set up: HurdsHypocrisy.com.

TX-23 and TX-SEN

Unlike in 2016, the race is unfolding this cycle in the shadow of an action-packed U.S. Senate contest — and it has created some tension in the 23rd District.

O’Rourke, Hurd’s road-trip companion, is running against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and has declined to endorse Jones out of fear of spoiling his ability to work with Hurd in Congress. Hurd has similarly said he would not insert himself into O’Rourke’s race, including when asked Saturday at a town hall in Fort Davis whether he would endorse Cruz.

“Ted Cruz and Beto are good friends of mine, and I am not going to do anything that can be used to attack either one of them,” Hurd responded. “That being said, I actually think Ted Cruz is going to win this election. It is still Texas.”

Jones said in the interview that she was “very hopeful” O’Rourke prevails against Cruz. “But when it comes down to endorsements,” she added, “the one I’m worried about are the voters of Texas 23.”

In addition to Hurd and Jones, Libertarian Ruben Corvalan is also on the ballot in the 23rd District. Early voting starts Oct. 22.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: PATRICK SVITEK –  The Texas Tribune

Video: Meet U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and his Democratic Challenger, Gina Ortiz Jones

Texas’ 23rd Congressional District is enormous – stretching west from San Antonio along the U.S.-Mexico border and stopping just short of El Paso. Its politics are as diverse as its terrain. It is the the only true swing congressional district in Texas.

In 2016, more voters in the district chose Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump while also re-electing Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd. It was the first time an incumbent held on to the seat for a second term in eight years.

The district is once again a top race for both parties this year, with Hurd, a former CIA officer, running for re-election against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones.

Since 2016, Hurd has often gained the most attention for his opposition at odds with Trump. He publicly criticized the president’s handling of Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections. He’s also advocated for continuing an Obama-era immigration program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and argued against building a wall along our southern border – two positions at odds with Trump

Jones, a San Antonio native who served as a former Air Force intelligence officer for 14 years, is working to highlight that the vast majority of Hurd’s votes have been in line with what Trump wanted.

In the latest video from our Split Decision campaign debate series, watch the two candidates discuss their views on gun laws, Trump’s border wall and who can better channel an impression of the district’s famous native son, actor Matthew McConaughey.

Authors:  ALANA ROCHAJIANING “HOLLY” HEJUSTIN DEHN AND TODD WISEMAN – The Texas Tribune

Texas Poised to End Dry Spell of Electing New Women to Congress in 2018

Eighteen months and several political lifetimes ago, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee held court at a table at the Democratic National Committee Texas delegation breakfast in Philadelphia. Just hours before Hillary Clinton was set to become the first woman to accept a major-party nomination for the presidency, Jackson Lee conceded she was “worried … but not panicked” about the advancement of women in politics in her own backyard.

The Houston Democrat’s concerns stemmed from being one of just three women in the 38-member Texas delegation. The prospects of other women stepping in once all three retired, let alone expanding their ranks, seemed dim.

Fast forward to 2018, and Jackson Lee is no longer worried. In fact, she’s elated. Thanks to the polarizing response to Donald Trump and a rash of retirements in the delegation, women are coming out of the woodwork to run for federal office in Texas.

“It is a lifetime ago, and I’m glad I said what I said,” she says now. “I didn’t realize our work would be so accelerated, but it has.”

“I consider young women fixer-uppers — they come in when the country is in desperate need for common sense, for spunkiness, for strength, for nurturing and for knowing how to bring peace in the middle of discord,” she added.

For more than two decades, Jackson Lee has been part of a trifecta of women representing Texas in the U.S. House along with Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Republican U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth. Each of the three women was elected in a succession of cycles from 1992 to 1996. Joining them in 1993 was U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who became the first woman elected to the Senate from Texas.

And then the drought came.

No freshman woman has come to Congress from Texas since Granger’s election 1996, with the exception of former U.S. Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs, who served as a placeholder for less than two months in late 2006. (Hutchison, who left the Senate in 2013, is now U.S. ambassador to NATO.)

The problem in Texas was not so much that women weren’t winning – it was that they weren’t running.

In interviews with candidates, officeholders and campaign consultants, the most-cited reasons for the lack of female candidates were concerns that gerrymandered districts would protect incumbents, an aversion to commuting to Washington while raising children and general apathy, a problem Jackson Lee cited back in 2016.

That all changed this year, in part due to a national backlash against Trump on the Democratic side and, in Texas, a wave of retirements on both sides.

Approximately 50 women have lined up this year to run for Congress in Texas, among hundreds running around the country. Of that sum, a handful are running well-funded, professional campaigns and have viable paths to serving in Washington.

“What a difference two years makes!” Dolly Elizondo, a 2016 candidate who came up short in her South Texas Democratic primary, wrote in an email about the new environment. “I am amazed and proud to see so many women and women of color running for office across this country and winning.”

Why now?

Despite the Trump effect being seen across the country, the main reason so many women are running in Texas this year is the recent rash of vacancies of Texans in Congress. Most were retirements, but U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke created a vacancy in his heavily Democratic El Paso-based 16th district when he announced his run for U.S. Senate.

It is there that a new female member of Congress from Texas is most likely to emerge.

Former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and former El Paso School Board President Dori Fenenbock are the best-funded candidates aiming to succeed O’Rourke, and former state Rep. Norma Chavez threw her hat into the ring just before the December filing deadline. Escobar and Fenenbock both cited the same reason as contributing to their decisions to run: Their children are old enough that they felt comfortable making the Washington commute without creating disruptions in their families.

Three men are also running in the Democratic primary, but the betting money among political observers is on El Paso sending a woman to Washington.

Another potential future congresswoman is state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat who is seeking retiring U.S. Rep. Gene Green‘s 29th District seat and has drawn Green’s endorsement. She faces a crowded field in a Democratic primary that will likely determine the outcome of the election. Houston political insiders say that, while there are no assurances, Garcia is in the driver’s seat for the nomination.

She ran for Congress previously in 1992 against Green and lost. Back then, she was part of another crush of women entering politics, at that time in response to the controversial Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings.

On the GOP side, Texas women running for open seats in Congress include political fundraiser Bunni Pounds and communications consultant Jenifer Sarver. Both women are in ferociously competitive primaries.

Pounds was a longtime fundraiser for the outgoing congressman in her district, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling. She, like Garcia and Escobar, has the support of the man she is aiming to replace.

The stakes for the Republican Party to send some of these women to Congress are high, from a national perspective. The House GOP conference is bleeding female members due to retirements and women who are vacating their seats to run statewide. Making matters worse, other Republican women represent some of the most vulnerable districts on the 2018 map.

“Certainly, in D.C., there’s an awareness that there’s a lot of movement in female-held seats,” Sarver said. “While a lot of that movement is upward, some of that could be a loss of female members [in the U.S. House.]”

But for Democrats, this is also about a backlash against President Donald Trump.

“It was like a punch in the gut when she lost,” Fenenbock said of El Paso’s reaction to Hillary Clinton’s defeat. “And we have a very strong representation of female voters. But I think there was a wake up call where we said, ‘Look, we can’t lose these opportunities if we are going to make a difference.’”

A number of the Democrats running attended their local Women’s Marches last year following Trump’s inauguration. Former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones is running for the Democratic nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in the most competitive seat in the state.

Jones served as a crossing guard at the national Women’s March in Washington that day.

“I knew after the election that night, I knew my time in public service would be different,” she said.

If elected, Jones, who is a first generation Filipino-American, would be the first Texan of an Asian-American background and the first openly LGBT Texan to serve in Congress.

Jones recently earned the endorsement of EMILY’s List, a Democratic fundraising juggernaut that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

That so many women are running – some in the same primaries – has created a sticky situation with the group, which has also endorsed Escobar and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Houston, both of whom are running in competitive primaries that include other women. Fenenbock called EMILY’s List decision to endorse her primary opponent “extraordinarily frustrating.”

“I have many friends who have given fundraisers for EMILY’s List and have friends, including myself, who have supported it for years,” Fenenbock said. “This is a bad trend, right now. We have women running, we should be supporting women who are running rather than pit them against each other. I don’t understand.”

“They’re getting a lot of phone calls about this race,” she added.

An end to the drought

There are dozens more women running for Congress in Texas, and the next round of campaign finance filings at the end of the month will show which candidates are prepared for the lead up to the March 6 primary.

Democrats Laura Moser, who is in the race to take on U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, and Lillian Salerno, who is running in the primary to run against U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, are among those who already posted strong fundraising reports last year.

But many of these candidates are still getting their footing with fundraising. Some could burst through into a runoff as the March 6 primary looms. Other candidates running in long-shot races could emerge as serious contenders if a strong enough Democratic wave sweeps through Texas and catches an incumbent or two napping.

But even if some of these women run the best campaigns possible, many are likely to come up short anyway. Some are running in the wrong party to win their seat. In other cases, open seats and Trump ire have similarly attracted talented male candidates as well.

And for the women hoping to take on Sessions, Culberson and Hurd – three Republican incumbents drawing strong attention from Democrats this year – it’s worth remembering that incumbents keep returning to Congress year in, year out for a reason: They know how to win in their districts.

Regardless, the influx of enthusiasm and candidates means that it is very likely that a year from now, at least one woman from somewhere in the state will be sworn into the Congress for the first time.

Few of the women interviewed for this story initially understood of the historical stakes of their campaigns.

Pounds, the Republican running in East Texas, downplayed gender in her race.

“I am a conservative who happens to be a woman, not a conservative running as a woman, and I’m honored by the overwhelming support I’ve earned across all 7 counties in the short period of time since announcing my candidacy,” she wrote in an email.

Fletcher, one of the Houston candidates, took the opposite tack. She first became aware of the decades-long drought during a May interview with The Texas Tribune and has since used that as a rallying point among her female supporters.

“When I tell people that here, they’re similarly shocked,” she said. “Especially women.”

Democratic state Rep. César Blanco was the one who told Escobar, one of the El Paso candidates, that no Texas Latina had ever served in Congress.

“I thought that had to be some kind of mistake,” she said. “I could not believe that was really the case. I didn’t quite believe it because it does seem so shocking.”

She hopes she will not be the only one to make it. She considers Garcia, the Houston state senator, to be a friend and hopes they can break the glass ceiling together.

“It would be incredible to be in the freshman class with her, but also incredible by [not just sending] one Latina but by sending two,” Escobar said.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report. 

Disclosure: Jenifer Sarver has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • In South Texas, a candidate named Dolly Elizondo had a chance to make history as the first Latina from Texas to serve in Congress. Those involved say she struggled to translate national interest into sufficient local support. [Full story]
  • Texas has just three women in its 38-member congressional delegation, and hasn’t sent a new long-term congresswoman to Washington in almost 20 years. Many in both parties wonder why the state’s once-promising fount of woman candidates is running dry. [Full story]
  • Congress passed a massive tax cut bill last month. Here’s how all 38 Texans voted. [Full story]

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

 

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