Analysis Culture

Spotlight: Veteran Candidates — Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23)

This article is part of a series on veteran candidates for the House of Representatives in toss-up districts. Part One of the series can be found here.

This article should not been seen as an endorsement of any political candidate or party, and does not represent the views of The Freq Media.

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Democrats and political analysts have claimed Texas will go blue, eventually, for years. Election after election, they’ve claimed “This will be the year!” As the 2018 midterm approaches, and Democrats are engaged in a number of high-profile races, namely the one between Senator Ted Cruz (R) and Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D), this year might finally be the year that Texas at least turns purple. Into the midst of these complicated state politics comes Gina Ortiz Jones.

Jones may be a political newcomer, this being her first attempt at an elected office, but she is no stranger to the struggles of everyday Texans or public service. The daughter of an immigrant and single mother, Jones grew up watching her mother work multiple jobs to keep the family afloat, living in subsidized housing, and relying on reduced lunch at school. Even so, Jones valued education and worked hard to elevate herself. She was awarded an Air Force ROTC scholarship to Boston University, where she majored in both Economics and East Asian Studies, and received an M.A. in Economics as well.

Jones spent three years on active duty as an intelligence officer, serving in Iraq and achieving the rank of Captain. Returning to Texas in 2006 to care for her mother, she later continued serving as a civilian, first with U.S. Africa Command, and later with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Eventually, she served in the Executive Office of the President, working under the U.S. Trade Representative as Director for Investment, a post she held under both Presidents Obama and Trump, until her departure in 2017.

Jones receiving an award in the Air Force.

Jones faces a difficult race. A New York Times and Siena College poll “shows Trump with a 48 percent approval rating in the district, while 47 percent of residents disapprove. Forty-nine percent would prefer that Republicans retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 45 percent want Democrats in control.”

Jones’ opponent is Representative Will Hurd (R), who also sports impressive national security credentials. President of his class at Texas A&M, Hurd served nearly a decade in the Central Intelligence Agency, working undercover. Hurd has been described as a moderate Republican, pushing back against President Trump’s stances on immigration and Russian election-meddling. Jones is attempting to more closely associate Hurd to Trump, claiming that his voting record aligns him closely to the administration. These messages have had trouble landing effectively — as of an october poll, Hurd led Jones 53 points to 38.

One unknown in the upcoming election is the role of Latino voters. The 23rd Congressional district was one of the Texas districts implicated in a gerrymandering case, for allegedly suppressing the Latino and African-American vote, but was found to be valid by a federal court in August 2017. Democrats are expecting high Latino turnout in the face of Trumpism, as part of an expected “blue wave”, although the historically low Latino turnout is still very much in question.

Here is where Jones stands on top issues in the 2018 election, according to her campaign website:

Immigration

Jones supports comprehensive reform that reaffirms American values, while ensuring American security. She believes in fully funding Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while fixing DACA and ensuring families are kept together during the entire process.

Healthcare

Following the progressive Democratic line on this issue, Jones supports a single-payer healthcare system. She sees this beginning with fixing the Affordable Care Act, reducing the control of insurance and pharmaceutical companies on market, and enabling small businesses to access more affordable healthcare for their employees.

Jobs and the Economy

Jones wants to enrich the economies of America and Texas by providing a working minimum wage, investing in advanced job skills training, and investing in infrastructure like high-speed internet. She sees tax reform that raises taxes on the wealthy and corporations as central to these policies as well.

National Security

Jones sees the Trump foreign policy as reactionary. She seeks to bring a common-sense approach to diplomacy, trade deals, and policies that strengthen the American middle class, and benefit our allies and neighbors. She also believes more aggressively fighting climate change is central to our long term national security.

Despite her credentials, Jones faces an uphill battle. Polls have been wrong before, just ask Hillary Clinton, and the unknown Latino vote could certainly shake elections across Texas. Only time will tell if this is finally the year Texas flips, or if Democrats are left looking to 2020.

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