By Ari Snider
Early voting is underway, and Big Bend voters will help decide one of the most competitive races in the state — the bid to replace retiring Republican Congressman Will Hurd in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District.
Republican candidate Tony Gonzales hopes to keep the seat in the GOP column, while Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones — who narrowly lost in 2018 — is taking another shot at flipping the district.
The 23rd district has a history of close races. In 2018, incumbent Will Hurd bested Jones by about half a percentage point, or less than 1,000 votes.
This year, with the moderate Hurd retiring, Jones is up against Gonzales, a more staunchly-conservative candidate who emerged from the GOP primary with the endorsement of President Trump. For her part, Jones has pulled back on one of her more progressive policy proposals from 2018 — creating a single-payer healthcare system — and this year says she supports a public option, which would allow people to opt-in to a government-run healthcare program.
The race has national consequences for the balance of power in Washington. Democrats currently control the House, and flipping the district would help them maintain or even expand their majority. For Republicans — currently the underdogs to regain control of the House — keeping the district in their column is crucial to holding the line in what is expected to be a favorable election cycle for Congressional Democrats.
Despite offering very different policy visions, the two candidates have some biographical similarities. Both have served in the Armed Forces, and neither have held elected office before. Jones served as an Air Force intelligence officer and was deployed to Iraq, while Gonzales served as a cryptologist in the Navy and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In their interviews with Marfa Public Radio, the candidates were asked about the following issues:
- COVID-19: Public health response and economic recovery efforts
- Healthcare reform
- Border and immigration issues
- Climate change