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Air Force vet makes second run for Texas congressional seat

Trump's 'policies have frankly made us less secure,' says Gina Ortiz Jones

Gina Ortiz-Jones

Gina Ortiz Jones is hoping that two years will make all the difference. The former Air Force intelligence officer and former advisor to the Executive Office of the President on economic and national security issues is aiming to win the chance in today’s Democratic primary to try and flip Texas’s 23rd Congressional District come November. 

Flashback: In 2018, Ortiz Jones narrowly lost 49.2% to 48.7% — a margin of 926 votes — to incumbent GOP Rep. Will Hurd. This time, Hurd is not seeking re-election in the district, which includes much of southwest Texas.

The incumbent: Hurd, a moderate Republican and the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, has held the seat since 2015. He has frequently voted against his party on key issues like LGBT rights, gun control and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “I think Will Hurd would agree I have the stronger chance this time, that’s why we scared him out of this race,” Ortiz Jones told Jewish Insider.

Money lead: In terms of fundraising, Ortiz Jones holds a towering lead over her four Democratic primary competitors. She’s raised nearly $2.7 million so far, compared to just over $16,000 by the next largest Democratic fundraiser. 

Healthcare focus: Ortiz Jones said that healthcare is “by far the number one issue” in her district, because of rising costs, fear in the Hispanic community about seeking out healthcare services, poor infrastructure and lack of medical personnel. She said she supports a public option for health insurance.

Looking south: Ortiz Jones — whose district includes a significant stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border — lambasted President Donald Trump’s border wall. “His policies have frankly made us less secure,” she said. “This president finds it okay to declare a fake national emergency so he can steal from the military to build a wasteful wall — it’s abhorrent and it’s a waste of resources.”

On immigration: “I look forward to making sure that we’ve got national security and foreign policies that reflect our values and actually keep us safe,” she said. While it’s important to secure the border, “we can also treat people with humanity and with respect, she added. Ortiz Jones also characterized immigration as “an opportunity… [and] an economic imperative,” which could help address issues like the dearth of medical workers in her district, and she said foreign policy programs could help address the economic and security issues in the countries from which immigrants are fleeing.

Israel: Ortiz Jones said she supports a two-state solution, and expressed support for the U.S.-Israel alliance. “They’re a key partner — will always be. I think, though, a two-state solution does the most to respect both sides’ rights to self-determination and security.”

Trump’s intelligence community: Ortiz Jones was particularly critical of Trump’s decision to appoint Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as acting director of National Intelligence, and of the perceived politicization of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. “The fact that you would appoint a partisan hack part-time to lead the world’s most powerful intelligence community, most capable intelligence community, suggests that there’s not nearly sufficient respect for the sacrifice that those men and women make, to be able to ensure that our national security leaders have the information they need to keep our country safe,” she said. She added that she’s concerned that allies may become wary of trusting the U.S. and sharing their intelligence.

General election: Politico and the Cook Political Report have predicted that, with Hurd’s retirement, the district now leans Democratic, meaning that Ortiz Jones has a shot at winning in November if she emerges victorious from today’s Democratic primary.

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