(from left) Incumbent Will Hurd (R-TX) and Gina Ortiz Jones look to secure United States House seat 23 which spans from San Antonio into West Texas along the border.
(from left) Incumbent U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes) and Gina Ortiz Jones remain in a tight District 23 race with provisional ballots remaining to be counted. Credit: Composite / San Antonio Report

After a night of uncertainty, Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd claimed victory over Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, with final numbers coming down to a single precinct in Medina County, the Texas Secretary of State’s office confirmed Wednesday.

Hurd maintained a slim lead until about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, when Jones pulled ahead by 282 votes, with all precincts reporting. An hour later, updated vote totals showed Hurd beating Jones by 689 votes. Secretary of State officials learned in the early morning hours that Medina County election officials had incorrectly entered election day results, spokesperson Sam Taylor said.

“Apparently, they had not entered all their election day results for the last precinct,” Taylor said. “It really came down to that one last precinct that [was] initially entered wrong by Medina County.”

The slim margin allows the Jones camp to request a recount, Taylor said, but whether it will do so is unclear. Jones’ communications director Noelle Rosellini said in an emailed statement that the campaign is awaiting a full vote count.

“This election is not over – every vote matters and must be counted,” Rosellini said. “Gina’s campaign has been powered by grassroots energy from day one, and we won’t stop working until every provisional ballot, absentee ballot, and military or overseas ballot has been counted.”

Gina Ortiz Jones.
Gina Ortiz Jones has the opportunity to call for a recount following a narrow loss to Will Hurd in the 23rd Congressional District. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In a tweeted statement, Hurd claimed victory in the race for the second time. He had first announced his win around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at a campaign event in San Antonio.

“Even though I was outspent by my opponent, I stand as the only Texas Republican to win reelection in a district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Hurd said. “I’m proud to be the first person to hold this tough seat three elections in a row for more than two decades.”

The updated preliminary numbers show Hurd with 49.1 percent of votes to Jones’ 48.8 percent. Libertarian Ruben Corvalan got 2.1 percent.

Jones had conceded the race earlier in the evening after Hurd had claimed victory, calling her bid for Congress “an amazing opportunity to give voice to the issues that matter most to Texans.”

A rare swing district in Texas, CD 23 includes all or parts of 29 counties, stretching from San Antonio to sparsely populated areas along the Texas-Mexico border nearly to El Paso.

The race featured two candidates with unique personal stories. Hurd, a 41-year-old former CIA officer, is Texas’ first black Republican member of Congress. Ortiz Jones, 37, wanted to be the first Filipina-American congresswoman in U.S. history.

Jones, an openly gay Iraq War veteran and former Air Force intelligence officer, has focused much of her campaign on her own experience, which she tied to her support for improved access to quality health care, education, and job training.

Hurd crisscrossed the district during the campaign, holding a series of town halls starting in 2017. He at times tried to distance himself from President Donald Trump on issues like the U.S.-Mexico border wall and the U.S. relationship with Russia, though Jones pointed to his record of often voting with the GOP majority.

In his speech, Hurd said his campaign “had the courage to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Congressional District 21

In Congressional District 21, another closely watched race, Republican Chip Roy held onto his early lead on Democrat Joseph Kopser. Roy received 50.3 percent of votes to Kopser’s 47.5 percent. Libertarian Lee Santos has 2.1 percent.

(from left) Joseph Kopser and Chip Roy are looking to fill Congressional District 21's seat left open by Lamar Smith's retirement.
(from left) Joseph Kopser and Chip Roy are looking to fill Congressional District 21’s seat left open by Lamar Smith’s retirement. Credit: Composite / San Antonio Report

Both were competing for the seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a 16-term incumbent retiring at the end of this term. The district includes parts of suburban San Antonio and Austin, along with swaths of the Hill Country.

“I’m pretty sure the numbers we’ve seen have all settled the way that we like,” Roy campaign spokesperson Nathan McDaniel said shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday.

McDaniel compared Roy’s likely election win to Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory over Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. He said campaign staff often liken the demographics of the district to Texas as a whole with its mix of cities, suburbs, rural areas, and college towns.

“Chip is a conservative Republican,” McDaniel said. “Kopser, he ran a great race, but his policies are just very left, and I think that’s not where the district is.”

Leading up to the election, the race seemed close enough for some observers to wonder whether Kopser, an Austin tech entrepreneur and Army veteran, could flip a reliably red seat for the first time since the 1970s.

Doing so would have meant defeating a political veteran in Roy, a former staffer to various Republican politicians, including Cruz.

At a campaign event in New Braunfels, Roy had not claimed victory as of 10:45 p.m. but thanked supporters for withstanding what he called “an attack on our Texas values” based on donor money and support for Democrats from outside the state.

“Whether you spent your time, treasure, blood, sweat, and tears, the people who were out today, polling the sites, manning the phones, knocking on doors, I cannot tell how extraordinary it is to have such a dedicated group,” he said.

Since their wins in May runoff primary elections, Kopser has tried to win support from moderate Republican and swing voters drawing on his military and business background. Roy focused on proving his bona fides as a true Texas conservative fighting to limit government overreach.

In an interview early Tuesday before initial totals began trickling in, Kopser said Democratic votes alone wouldn’t carry him to victory.

“We always knew that we’d need Democrats to show up in presidential year numbers,” Kopser said. “We knew we had to get a sizable chunk of Independents, and we still had to convert a certain single-digit number of moderate Republicans to our side.”

Other congressional races

In other races for U.S. House districts representing parts of San Antonio, Democrats in safe districts retained their seats with little worry of Republican challengers.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat representing Texas’ 35th district, held onto his position representing parts of downtown and Southeast San Antonio along the Interstate 35 corridor to parts of south and east Austin.

Few had expected Republican David Smalling, an electrician, to mount an effective challenge to Doggett, who has represented various Texas congressional districts since 1995. With 87 percent of votes counted, Doggett led with 71 percent compared to Smalling’s at 26.3 percent. Libertarian Clark Patterson garnered 2.7 percent.

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Joaquín Castro, the Democrats in Districts 28 and 20, respectively, also sailed to victory. Neither incumbent faced Republicans looking to flip their seats this election cycle, and early voting put both Cuellar and Castro far ahead of their Libertarian opponents.

Nicholas Frank and Edmond Ortiz contributed to this report. 

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He serves as the assistant manager of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.