Tony Gonzales, a Republican and former Navy cryptologist, early Wednesday defeated Gina Ortiz Jones, a Democrat and Iraq War veteran, in a closely watched congressional district on the southwestern border of Texas, beating back Democrats’ efforts to flip the seat as they pressed to build their House majority.
The success of Mr. Gonzales, who was endorsed by Representative Will Hurd, the Republican incumbent who is retiring, was a setback for Democrats’ efforts to turn Texas blue by flipping a number of seats in the conservative stronghold.
The Democrat’s loss, according to The Associated Press, was the second consecutive defeat for Ms. Jones, who would have been the first gay woman of color to represent Texas in Congress, and who narrowly fell short in her bid for the seat in 2018, receiving roughly 1,100 votes fewer votes than Mr. Hurd.
The sprawling Texas district, which cuts through parts of San Antonio and rural areas along the border, has long been a political battleground, having swerved five times between the two parties since the early 1990s. Ms. Jones’s proximity to victory in 2018 — so close that she attended new member orientation before conceding — made the race a top target for Democrats, particularly after Mr. Hurd, the lone Black Republican in the House, announced his intent to step down.
Both parties had pumped millions of dollars into the district, including in the final weeks, as Republicans emphasized that the race was not yet out of reach and worked to counter the huge war chest Ms. Jones built after handily winning her primary race.
“Really Smart People keep saying that TX23 is a foregone conclusion,” Parker Polling, the executive director of the House Republican campaign arm said on Twitter in late October. “But Dem outside groups have dropped almost $4.5M on TV alone here, on top of DC resident Gina Jones’ $2M. So no one should be surprised by data showing this to be an extremely competitive race.”
Mr. Gonzales had prevailed in a bitter primary, runoff and subsequent recount that pitted his endorsement from President Trump against that of Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who had backed Raul Reyes, a retired Air Force veteran. Brandishing his conservative credentials, Mr. Gonzales sought to frame Ms. Jones as a Washington insider, allied with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and the most liberal Democrats in Congress.
During the campaign, Mr. Gonzales emphasized his calls to increase investment in border and national security, as well as his opposition to the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that established abortion rights.