By Teo Armus
The Texas congressional race between incumbent Republican Will Hurd and Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones is still too close to call following a dramatic overnight in which Ortiz Jones pulled ahead, Hurd pulled back, and news outlets across the nation retracted their projections.
On Wednesday morning in Congressional District 23, the state’s only true battleground district, Hurd was leading Ortiz Jones by nearly 700 votes, with all precincts counted.
“This election is not over—every vote matters,” said Noelle Rosellini, a spokesperson for Ortiz Jones. “We won’t stop working until every provisional ballot, absentee ballot, and military or overseas ballot has been counted.”
She did not mention the possibility of a recount, although Ortiz Jones’ campaign is well within the margin to do so in Texas. (According to state law, the difference in votes between the top two finishers must be less than 10 percent of the winner’s total votes — in this case, about 10,000.)
But it did not keep Hurd from declaring victory. “I’m proud to have won another tough reelection in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas,” he said in a statement on Wednesday morning, noting that he would be the only Texas Republican to keep his seat in a district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Hurd, a two-term lawmaker and former CIA officer, attempted to distance himself from President Donald Trump on issues such as Russian interference in the 2016 election and immigration — a key issue in this district, which covers hundred of miles of the Texas-Mexico border. In 2016, he won reelection by a razor-thin margin of about 3,000 votes.
Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer and Iraq War veteran, has tried to point out that most of Hurd’s votes have fallen in line with Trump. If elected, she would be the first Filipina-American member of Congress and the first openly LGBTQ lawmaker in Congress from Texas.
Her campaign may have to pay up to request a recount. According to state law, she would have to submit a request in writing to the governor’s office and pay $60 for each precinct in the congressional district that uses regular paper ballots plus $100 for each precinct that uses electronic voting systems. The money would be returned only if a new winner is declared.
Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state‘s office, said that more than half of the 1,123 precincts in the district use electronic ballots.
Many news outlets, including The Texas Tribune, called the race for Hurd on Tuesday evening, with Hurd declaring victory on Twitter and in person to his supporters at a watch party in San Antonio and Ortiz Jones conceding defeat across town.
“While it didn’t shake out the way we would want, we ran a campaign that we are proud of and that really reflected Texas values,” Ortiz Jones said at her campaign headquarters, according to the San Antonio News-Express. Her campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But as more vote totals kept coming in, she surpassed Hurd by about 300 votes with over 97 percent of precincts reporting. Early on Wednesday morning, news organizations withdrew their call of the race and Hurd deleted a tweet saying he won.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/11/07/will-hurd-texas-congressional-close/.