Gina Ortiz Jones was one of three LGBTQ Texans to win this week’s Democratic primaries for U.S. Congress.
The lesbian Iraq War veteran, who served under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” bested former high school teacher and Bernie Sanders supporter Rick Treviño in a decisive victory on Tuesday. Ortiz Jones won 68 percent of the vote in the runoff elections for Texas’ District 23, compared to just 32 percent for Treviño.
The 37-year-old earned 41 percent of the vote when the two initially faced off in the March primaries, but because neither candidate finished with more than 50 percent, a runoff was held.
Ortiz Jones claimed that her landslide win illustrated that “Democrats are united to change Congress.”
“I congratulate Rick Treviño on a campaign that brought passion and clarity to the issues Texan families face,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him, and people across Texas, to make sure Congress serves communities like ours by delivering on health care that working families can afford, instead of serving special interests that will never put Texas families first.”
If the Air Force veteran is elected to the House of Representatives in November, Ortiz Jones would represent history made in several ways. In addition to being Texas’ first Filipina member of Congress, she would be the state’s only lesbian lawmaker to ever serve in the national legislature.
Ortiz Jones told INTO in November that she hopes her success in the 2018 election opens the door for other LGBTQ candidates. A historic 52 queer and trans Texans ran for office this year, according to OutSmart magazine.
“I’d be honored to be Texas’ first out member of Congress, but it’s more important that I’m not the last,” she claimed.
In addition to Ortiz Jones, two more LGBTQ hopefuls were victorious in the Tuesday runoffs. Plano attorney Lorie Burch won by 50 points in Texas’ 3rd Congressional district, beating challenger Sam Johnson 75 percent to 25 percent. Eric Holguin, running in the 27th District, bested opponent Raul “Roy” Barrera by an equally decisive 24-point marginwinning 62 percent to 38 percent.
Burch resisted the narrative that LGBTQ politicians are turning Texas blue in a statement released after her primary win.
“When politics is a game of winners and losers, we the people all lose,” she said. “This moment, this movement, is about our own humanity and that there is no us versus them; there is just us.
“Let’s commit to fighting these false labels that divide us,” Burch continued in a message posted to Facebook, “and remember that we are stronger when we allow ourselves to see the world through other people’s eyes and to find ways to share this community, this country, and this world together.”
Holguin added that his massive victory was a testament to the community.
“Last night’s win isn’t about me,” the former Corpus Christi city councillor claimed on social media. “It’s about all of us. We did that. And thank you for doing your part to make that happen.”
These three LGBTQ Congressional hopefuls represent the estimated 31 queer and trans politicians who will be on the state ballot in November.
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez became Texas’ first queer and Latina gubernatorial candidate after winning her primary this week. Finnigan Jones, who ran unopposed in the primaries, is set to become the Texas Democratic Party’s first trans nominee for the state legislature. He’s competing against incumbent Tony Tinderholt in District 94.
Many of these contenders face tough contests in their respective races.
Valdez will take on one of the nation’s most popular governors in Republican Greg Abbott, who a February poll from Morning Consult showed earns the support of 59 percent of Texans. Abbott begins the race 12 points ahead in early polling.
Meanwhile, Ortiz Jones is facing off against Republican incumbent Will Hurd in a majority conservative district.
The Democratic candidate’s biggest obstacle to overcome will be the piggy bank: Hurd leads her in fundraising by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, bringing in $2.3 million with an additional $1.5 million in cash on hand. Ortiz Jones has earned a substantially slimmer $1.2 million, while boasting just $415,000 in cash on hand.
But supporters say an upset in Red State America is more than attainable. District 23 has flipped parties four times since 2004 and could be vulnerable again after Democrats overperformed across the U.S. in the 2017 special elections.
Democrats currently have a 3.4 point advantage in a generic Congressional ballot, according to RealClearPolitics.