Democrat Sets Up Rematch Against Texas Congressman

SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Gina Ortiz Jones, the former Air Force intelligence officer who came just 926 votes short of defeating Republican Congressman Will Hurd in last year’s midterms, launched a rematch on Tuesday, all but ensuring Texas’ 23rd Congressional District will again be one of the country’s most competitive races.

Former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones speaks at the Future Forum on June 20, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo via LBJ Library/Jay Godwin)

A former intelligence analyst in the Obama administration, Jones becomes the first high-profile 2020 candidate to challenge Hurd, who has fended off persistent challenges for three terms in one of the state’s few swing districts.

Jones, who at one point pulled ahead of Hurd in a dramatic overnight turn of events on election night, had mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge where she sought to have all provisional ballots counted in hopes of closing the gap with the Republican incumbent. She attended new member orientation in Washington, D.C., before conceding the election nearly two weeks later.

“Last November, I came up a little bit short in my run for Congress, 926 votes. But I’ve never been one to back down because the promise of our country is worth fighting for,” Jones said in a video released Tuesday morning.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had already targeted Hurd’s massive border district as one of six House seats they hope to flip in 2020. The district wraps around western San Antonio and stretches to the edge of El Paso, running along the Rio Grande and incorporating rural border towns such as Del Rio and Eagle Pass.

Hurd, a one-time CIA agent and the only black Republican in the House, has narrowly overcome well-funded challenges since winning election in 2014. That year, he unseated Democratic incumbent Pete Gallego who again launched a failed bid against Hurd in 2016.

Jones, 38, a Filipina-American, joins a growing list of Texas Democrats who have announced 2020 campaigns after narrowly losing to Republican incumbents, most notably presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and MJ Hegar, the Air Force combat veteran challenging U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

But Republicans quickly dismissed Jones’ entrance into the race. National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Bob Salera said Texans rejected Jones in 2018 “and will do so again if the socialist Democrats nominate her next year.”

“If the definition of insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, someone should check on Texas Democrats,” Salera said.

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