Will Hurd Wins Re-election to Texas Congressional Seat
Posted November 19, 2018 2:20 p.m. EST
HOUSTON — The Democratic challenger trying to unseat Rep. Will Hurd, a two-term Republican congressman in the Texas border region, conceded the race Monday, ending a nearly two-week dispute over the counting of provisional and other ballots in a tight race and sealing Hurd’s re-election.
Hurd’s majority-Hispanic district has been a hard-fought battleground for Democrats and Republicans. The 23rd District spans a wide swath of Far West Texas, including parts of San Antonio and some smaller border towns. The seat has flipped five times between Republicans and Democrats since the early 1990s, and Democrats were eager to make it six.
As it turned out, the race was so close that it took days of ballot examinations to determine the outcome.
Hurd and his opponent, Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer finished the election with one of the tightest vote margins in the state. Hurd had received 49.2 percent of the vote and Ortiz got 48.6 percent, with 1,150 votes separating the two candidates, according to state elections officials.
Hurd had declared himself the winner, but Jones said the election was far from over and refused to concede.
Her campaign waited as an unknown number of ballots were tallied in more than two dozen counties and went to court seeking a two-day extension to get the job done. The postelection limbo paralleled, on a smaller scale, the vote-counting controversy unfolding in Arizona, Florida and Georgia. At the center of the Texas case was the counting of absentee, military and overseas ballots sent in by mail as well as provisional ballots, which are effectively temporary votes that are not yet official.
Ortiz and her campaign’s lawyers challenged vote-total changes and the handling of the provisional ballot process by elections administrators in Medina County and in San Antonio’s Bexar County.
In a statement released Monday, Jones conceded the race to Hurd.
“While we came up short this time, we ran a race of which we can be proud,” she said. “I remain committed to serving my community and country, and I wish Will Hurd the courage to fight for TX-23 in the way in which our district deserves.”
The race opened a window on the increasing diversity of Texas politics. Hurd is the first black Republican to represent Texas in Congress. Jones was seeking to become the country’s first Filipina-American congresswoman and the state’s first openly gay or lesbian member of Congress.
The outcome was a belated boost to Texas Republicans.
While Republicans won many local, state and federal races in the midterm election and maintained their overall dominance of Texas politics, the state’s Democrats performed better than they had in decades, largely a result of a “Beto effect” — the uptick in voter turnout and enthusiasm created by Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s high-profile underdog campaign, ultimately unsuccessful, to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz.
Texas Democrats flipped 16 state and federal seats to blue from red: 12 in the state House, two in the state Senate and two in Congress. In addition, some of the state’s most outspoken far-right politicians had surprisingly narrow victories, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was the Texas chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Hurd, a former CIA officer who is one of the few African-American Republicans in Congress, is regarded as one of the more moderate members of the state’s Republican delegation. He has spoken against Trump’s planned border wall and co-authored a bill earlier this year to both protect the undocumented young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation and strengthen border security.
And he had a well-known tie to O’Rourke — an impromptu bipartisan road trip. In 2017, after visiting veterans’ service centers in San Antonio, the two congressmen from opposing parties decided to rent a car together and drive to Washington after a winter storm upended their flight plans, and they livestreamed their journey on Facebook.
“Beto suggested it,” Hurd told The New York Times at the time while on the road. “He thought I was going to say no.”
The 23rd District is one of the places where Democrats have accused Republican leaders of drawing boundary lines intended to weaken Latino voting power and of helping to squash Hispanic turnout by passing one of the country’s toughest voter ID laws.
In recent years, federal judges found in separate cases that the Republican-led Texas Legislature discriminated against minority voters in its drawing of the 23rd District and in its passage of the voter ID law. But in later rulings, federal courts sided with Texas and upheld both the district map and the state’s efforts to loosen the voter ID restrictions.