“Raised by her single mom and Air Force-trained in San Antonio, Gina Ortiz Jones has never forgotten where she comes from and those most in need. Gina will fight every day to make sure that the American Dream is a reality for families across south and west Texas. Her exemplary record of service, strong connections to this diverse district and impressive grassroots campaign put Gina on track to win this seat and serve honorably as this region’s next member of Congress.” – DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos
To: Interested Parties
From: Avery Jaffe, DCCC Regional Press Secretary
Date: August 24, 2020
Subject: The Case Against Tony Gonzales
“He’s working for me.” — President Trump on Tony Gonzales
The runoff results in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District put San Antonio native and Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones in an excellent position to win in November.
More than a year after Congressman Will Hurd chose to retire rather than lose to Gina Ortiz Jones in November 2020, Republicans finally have a nominee to do just that.
On the GOP side, Republicans have nominated underfunded political opportunist Tony Gonzales who was originally running a quixotic challenge to Rep. Lloyd Doggett – and continues to show the high-caliber campaigning you would expect from a Republican who decided to run in a D+15 congressional district. No wonder Washington Republicans, “once hopeful they had found a strong replacement for Rep. Will Hurd, have all but written off this district.”
Gonzales must pick up the pieces of a “fractured GOP field” after surviving a bitter, vindictive and expensive mess of a GOP primary, runoff, and acrimonious recount described by reporters as a “petty and personal,” “ugly,” and “remarkably vitriolic” “war of words” featuring “mudslinging” that highlighted the “tension” and “animosity” between Gonzales and runoff foe Raul Reyes.
Republicans have belly-flopped into the general election after a tumultuous home stretch marked by Senator Ted Cruz personally calling President Trump to advocate against the president’s endorsement of Gonzales and then launching a surprise $100,000 TV ad buy for his opponent.
Washington Republicans did their part for Gonzales, too: conducting a high-stakes extraction of Gonzales’ soul in exchange for a Trump endorsement, Trump robocall and Trump tele-town hall narrowly securing Gonzales’ place on the general election ballot but torpedoing his odds in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton and Beto O’Rourke and favors Vice President Biden.
Now, Gonzales is on the ballot after a whopping 40-something vote win over an opponent who had just $24,365 cash on hand as of June 30. And the nomination didn’t come cheap for the Gonzales camp: faced with Ted Cruz’s 11th-hour hijacking attempt of the TX-23 Republican runoff, Gonzales had to shell out more than $75,000 in new TV ad spending, badly depleting his campaign account heading into a general election against a well-funded Gina Ortiz Jones.
Other lowlights from this season include: Gonzales getting sued for stiffing a campaign worker and the plaintiff hiring former TX-23 Congressman (and former Gonzales endorser) Quico Canseco, Gonzales’ mother filing a police report against his runoff foe Raul Reyes, name-calling between Gonzales and Reyes, and Gonzales begging for a Trump endorsement since September 2019.
While Congressman Hurd was well-versed in the politics of triangulation and subterfuge, Gonzales veered hard right in the primary to win over a Hurd-skeptic reactionary base – especially on health care and building the wall – while Team Tony told anyone who’d listen that he’s far more conservative and pro-Trump than Hurd ever was.
Meanwhile, Gina Ortiz Jones has been building a grassroots movement to win Texas’ 23rd Congressional District and her compelling story reflects the lived experiences of many who live across south and west Texas. A San Antonio native, Gina is a first-generation American raised and Air Force-trained in Military City USA. Gina served our country in the Air Force and deployed to Iraq. She came back to the United States and served as a national security expert in the Bush and Obama administrations, working to protect America and our interests around the world.
Living and running for Congress in one of the most medically underserved districts in the country, Gina knows what access to quality, affordable health care means to a family. After her mom was diagnosed with cancer, Gina moved back home to San Antonio to help her recover. It’s why she’ll fight to lower the high cost of health care and always protect Texans with pre-existing conditions.
The last 15 months have seen Gina Ortiz Jones run laps around the Republican field in grassroots organization, political support and fundraising, while every paperwork error and illegal contribution refunded by Gonzales is a reminder of how fundamentally unprepared the GOP was to defend TX-23 as an open seat in 2020.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Donald J. Trump: “Tony will work for you in Congress, and by working for you, he’s working for me.” [Texas Tribune, 7/14/20]
“Despite raising twice as much money as Air Force veteran Raul Reyes and garnering the support of President Trump, Navy veteran Tony Gonzales is leading by fewer than 100 votes, a showing that has not inspired much confidence in the general election. Republicans, once hopeful they had found a strong replacement for Rep. Will Hurd, have all but written off this district.” [National Journal, 7/22/20]
“It was unclear as the news [of Hurd’s retirement] broke whether state or national Republicans have a backup plan for a candidate in this district. Several state and national Republican operatives reached out to The Texas Tribune to react to the news. Nearly all of the commentary involved highly explicit language.” [Texas Tribune, 8/1/19]
“Gonzales is also presenting himself as more conservative than Hurd” [San Antonio Express News, 9/30/19]
HEADLINE: “Donald Trump endorses Tony Gonzales to replace U.S. Rep. Will Hurd” [Texas Tribune, 7/3/20]
“Gonzales added that he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” [Texas Public Radio, 6/25/20]
“He emphasizes his desire to… replace the Affordable Care Act.” [San Antonio Express News, 7/31/19]
“At this point, he’s short on policy details.” [San Antonio Express-News, 7/31/19]
“Cruz is forcing Gonzales to deplete resources he otherwise could have saved for the general election. Matt Mackowiak, Gonzales’s campaign spokesman, called Cruz’s move a “catastrophic” and “strategically indefensible” endorsement” [San Antonio Express-News 7/4/20]
“Regardless of which GOP candidate wins in July, they’ll have a shorter-than-normal period in which to run a general election campaign… Jones not only has the luxury of more funding and previous ballot name-ID but that of winning her primary outright.” [The Texan, 5/6/20]
ED BOARD: “Gina Ortiz Jones is a superbly qualified candidate for Texas’ 23rd district. […] Issues such as health care, national security and immigration touch all congressional districts, but few as heavily the 23rd. Jones has a deep understanding of these issues and frames ideas as solutions. If elected, she would hit the ground running.” [San Antonio Express-News, 2/10/20]
“She’s got to be considered the frontrunner at this point, I mean she’s got the most experience campaigning in the district, she’s proven herself to be a really effective fundraiser…So whoever gets it they’re not going to have an easy time.” [San Antonio Express-News, 7/21/20]
Tony Gonzales: Hates Health Care, Loves Trump’s Agenda
HE’S NO WILL HURD, AND HE’LL TELL YOU THAT HIMSELF
Gonzales sold his soul to Donald Trump in order to win this nomination. What Trump got was Tony Gonzales’ obedience and inability to publicly break from the president. In 2016 and 2018, Will Hurd knew the president was toxic in his district, and steered clear in order to stress his bipartisan credentials in an election year.
As Gonzales courted conservative Republicans across TX-23 who had soured on outgoing Congressman Will Hurd’s perceived shots at Trump, Gonzales ran unapologetically on an anti-health care, pro-wall and extremely pro-Trump platform.
That’s how Gonzales ended up spending 2019 and 2020 stressing that he and Hurd are “different people” and that the “key is for me to be my own man.” He even highlighted that would be his goal “particularly west of San Antonio, where ‘the less you can say Will Hurd’s name,’ the better” the Texas Tribune reported.
As the San Antonio Express-News simply summed up: “Gonzales is also presenting himself as more conservative than Hurd.”
In a presidential year, it’s clear a clumsy pol like Tony Gonzales will be incapable of traversing Hurd’s tightrope-wide path to victory in this perennial swing district.
RUNNING ON “ELIMINATING” HEALTH CARE… IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC
In the middle of a global pandemic, Gonzales has continued to fully embrace the dangerous and unpopular Trump agenda of dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
Gonzales told the San Antonio Express-News that if elected, he’d replace the entire Affordable Care Act – without offering a plan to replace it. Gonzales has now been in the race for more than 450 days and still hasn’t offered a viable alternative and doesn’t even mention health care on his campaign “issues” webpage. No wonder the Express-News called him “short on policy details.”
What we do know is that Gonzales proudly supports “eliminating” the Affordable Care Act and its provisions to lower out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs, calling instead for a “return back” to the days of insurance caps and coverage denials for patients with pre-existing conditions, including survivors of COVID-19 who have lifelong side effects.
While Tony Gonzales may want to wind back the clock on health care at a time when more than half a million Texans have contracted COVID-19, and an estimated 1.6 million Texans have lost their health insurance, Gina Ortiz Jones knows what access to quality, affordable health care means to a family. After returning home from an overseas military deployment, Gina learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. She moved back home to San Antonio to take care of her mom and help her recover.
That experience taught Gina the value of access to health care and how expensive getting sick can be. In Congress, she’ll fight to lower the cost of insurance and prescription medicine and always protect Texans with pre-existing conditions.
On immigration, Gonzales has made more big breaks from the incumbent: hitching himself to the albatross that is the president’s unpopular border wall proposal that’s taking private land from families and raiding money from military bases across Texas.
Gonzales’ answer on building the border wall is explicit: “Do we need a wall? Absolutely.”
And just as Trump has continued to undermine the DACA program that allows DREAMers to contribute to the vibrant communities across TX-23, Texas Public Radio also reported that Gonzales is following in Trump’s footsteps and supports repealing the program.
As a proud first-generation American, Gina Ortiz Jones will always fight for the DREAMers – from the teachers, to first responders, to frontline health care workers – who undeniably make this district stronger, and to stop politicians like Tony Gonzales from using these young people as political pawns.
SLOPPY CAMPAIGNING AND SKETCHY DONATIONS
Tony Gonzales’ sloppy and sketchy campaign has all the trappings of someone who initially planned to spend 2019 and 2020 running a longshot race against a longtime incumbent in a safe Democratic seat. “Solid D” meets “Dense R.”
Since launching his campaign, Gonzales has taken contributions from family members while also keeping family members on the campaign’s payroll.
Gonzales also accepted corporate donations – which are illegal – before telling the Federal Election Commission he’d refund the money only after the donations were revealed on a public campaign finance report.
Today, Gonzales’ slapped-together campaign is already begging for money from Washington special interests to help bail out Gonzales on the airwaves.
Unlike Gonzales, Gina Ortiz Jones is swearing off all corporate PAC money because she believes it’s time to get big money out of politics. Jones believes the wealthy special interests are drowning out the voices of everyday people and it’s time Texans had a leader who’s accountable to them, not their donors.
PATH TO VICTORY
The path to victory in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District picks up right where it left off in 2018. Following blockbuster Democratic primary turnout in TX-23, it looks better than ever.
Texas’ 23rd Congressional District spans across south and west Texas, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso, roughly 820 miles along the U.S.-Mexican border. The district is majority Hispanic (60.3%) and has voted for Democrats in recent cycles. Beto O’Rourke carried the district in 2018, earning 52.5% of the major party vote and Hillary Clinton won it in 2016 with 51.8%. Congressional races over the past several cycles have been very close, including in 2018 when Jones came within 926 votes of defeating Will Hurd.
The district is one of three remaining districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 held by a Republican in Congress. Gina Ortiz Jones’ deep roots, strong fundraising, and disciplined campaign put her on path to win this seat and represent this vast district well in Congress.