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Elections 2020

Gina Ortiz Jones Raises $1 Million in Third Quarter

The Democrat is running for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, after narrowly losing to him last year.

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Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Gina Ortiz Jones, the leading Democratic candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, raised over $1 million in the third quarter, her campaign announced Tuesday morning.

The figure represents a massive haul that her campaign described as the “largest off-year quarterly fundraising total the district has ever seen.”

“I’m honored by the groundswell of support we’ve received and together we’re building a grassroots campaign to stand up to the corporate special interests and bring commonsense priorities like quality, affordable health care and lower prescription drug costs to Washington, D.C.,” Jones said in a statement.

Jones’ campaign expects to report having about $1.4 million cash on hand — a hefty stockpile for a race that is at the top of national Democrats’ priority list this cycle in Texas.

Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, is running for the seat being vacated by Hurd, who is retiring, after losing to him last year by a razor-thin margin. She is the frontrunner in a primary that includes a few other, lesser-known candidates.

Jones was one of the highest-raising Democratic congressional candidates in the country during the second quarter, and her campaign said she raked in over $100,000 in the 24 hours following Hurd’s early August announcement that he would not seek reelection.

In an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Thursday, Hurd said he is considering a presidential run in 2024.

The GOP primary for the seat is still forming, but it includes national Republicans like Tony Gonzales, a retired Navy cryptologist from San Antonio. He entered the race a few days after Hurd’s announcement and raised over $100,000 in his first month, according to his campaign.

The candidates are not required to report their third-quarter fundraising to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is working to flip six seats next year in Texas — and party leaders are already counting on Jones to put Hurd’s 23rd District in their column. In separate appearances Saturday at the Tribune Festival, DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos predicted Democrats will pick up the seat, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she has “no doubt Gina Ortiz Jones will win that seat.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders. Patrick logged countless miles on the 2016 campaign trail, covering the many Texas angles of the momentous presidential race. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Says Religious Institutions That Oppose Gay Marriage Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status

The Democratic presidential candidate gave an unequivocal answer Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights, drawing intense criticism from Republicans and religious groups.

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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is shown during a Sept. 28, 2019, appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position that sparked swift and fierce criticism from social conservatives.

The former El Paso congressman made the comment Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights. Anchor Don Lemon asked O’Rourke, “Do you think religious institutions — like colleges, churches, charities — should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”

“Yes,” O’Rourke replied without hesitating, drawing a round of applause. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us, and so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

In taking the stance, O’Rourke again staked out politically explosive territory with few allies in the primary field, much like his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons following the deadly El Paso shooting in August. He did not immediately back down from the position on tax-exempt status, tweeting his quote on the topic minutes after he was done at the town hall.

By Friday, GOP reaction had intensified, with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, issuing a statement denouncing O’Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”

“O’Rourke and some Democrats have declared war on churches,” Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said in a statement. “We say come and take it. This unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their Biblical beliefs on marriage must end and will be vigorously opposed. This is just another example of leftists that want to effectively ban the Bible and destroy our US Constitution.”

Calling O’Rourke’s position a “direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” the Plano-based First Liberty Institute said it was prepared to take legal action if O’Rourke or any future president sought to carry out the idea.

Earlier in the town hall, which was in Los Angeles, one of O’Rourke’s primary rivals, Cory Booker, did not go nearly as far in response to a similar question. Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, emphasized that there needs to be “consequences for discrimination” but repeatedly declined to say if he believed religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status over opposition to gay marriage.

O’Rourke released a plan for LGBTQ equality in June. Lemon cited it as he asked O’Rourke the question Thursday night, noting it said, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate.”

O’Rourke has previously targeted tax-exempt status for the National Rifle Association, calling for its revocation in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats that it served as a “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

Elizabeth Warren Hires Texas State Director

The Democratic presidential hopeful is the first non-Texan candidate to announce a hire in the state.

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Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has hired a Texas state director, the first such move by a non-Texan candidate in the primary.

The Warren campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that longtime Texas organizer Jenn Longoria will lead its efforts in the state, which holds its primary on Super Tuesday, or March 3. Longoria, a San Antonian who sits on the board of Battleground Texas, has extensive organizing experience in a range of races for everything from statewide office to city council.

Longoria has also worked for presidential campaigns, serving as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 run and as a full-time volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid.

Warren’s campaign is the second in the primary to announce a Texas state director. In early September, one of the candidates from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, named a Texas state director, Delilah Agho-Otoghile, as well as four other staffers dedicated to the state.

Some other campaigns have regional staffers, both based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on groups of states including Texas. For example, Pete Buttigieg has a regional organizing director, Michelle Hutchinson, who is based in Austin and oversees organizers working in Texas as well as other southwest states.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has risen in Texas primary polls as she has ascended nationally. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released early last month, Warren overtook O’Rourke for second place in the state, behind Joe Biden.

Warren has come to Texas four times this cycle, making her one of the more frequent visitors in the primary beyond O’Rourke and the other Texan in the race, Julían Castro. Her latest trip, which was in mid-September, featured an Austin rally where she was joined by Jessica Cisneros, the primary challenger to Laredo U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar who Warren had endorsed days earlier.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Calls for Donald Trump’s Resignation

The Democratic presidential candidate spoke at TribFest about his assault weapon buyback proposal, his presidential prospects and the Democrats’ impeachment push.

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"The best possible path ... is for this president to resign, allow this country to heal and ensure that we come back together with the greatest, most ambitious agenda we've ever faced," Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said Saturday. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said during an appearance Saturday at The Texas Tribune Festival that President Donald Trump should resign. 

“The best possible path … is for this president to resign, allow this country to heal and ensure that we come back together with the greatest, most ambitious agenda we’ve ever faced, none of it possible while he remains in office,” the former El Paso congressman said during a conversation with MSNBC’s Garrett Haake at The Paramount Theatre in Austin.

While the Republican president is unlikely to heed O’Rourke’s counsel, the comment underscored O’Rourke’s response this week to the launch of an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced the inquiry Tuesday after new revelations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

O’Rourke has been voicing support for impeachment since his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, and he told Haake that he is “very grateful” Pelosi announced the inquiry and that he is “cautiously optimistic about the path we’re on now.”

Reminded that the Republican-led Senate is highly unlikely to remove Trump from office, O’Rourke expressed hope that this impeachment process would play out like the one in 1974, when GOP senators — after initially backing a Republican president — went to the White House to tell President Richard Nixon that he no longer had their confidence. O’Rourke also suggested that administration officials concerned with Trump’s conduct could tell him it’s time to go.

Asked if a President O’Rourke would pardon Trump in that scenario, he gave a one-word answer: “No.”

During the interview, O’Rourke continued to defend his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, saying the gun violence epidemic “can’t be met by half steps,” and he discussed the viability of his consistently low-polling campaign, vowing to “surprise a lot of people.”

Asked if he had the resources to make it to the first early voting states — Iowa and New Hampshire in February — O’Rourke responded with confidence.

“I’m in this thing until the very end,” O’Rourke said. “I’m in all the way.”

At the same time, O’Rourke acknowledged that the competition for fundraising dollars has intensified lately. One of O’Rourke’s rivals, Cory Booker, recently suggested that his campaign could be over if he does not raise $1.7 million by the end of the month.

“I could maybe do a Facebook livestream with a kitten and say, ‘Now we don’t want anything to happen to the kitten, so send your $5, your $10, in now, and Miss Whiskers is gonna be fine,” O’Rourke said jokingly.

Still, O’Rourke is not a shoo-in for the November debate, which candidates must qualify for by hitting 3% in four polls — or 2% in two early voting state polls — as well as 165,000 donors. While O’Rourke has met the donor threshold, the polling requirement may be harder for him to achieve, at least based on recent surveys.

After the festival interview, O’Rourke told reporters he has “no problem with the criteria” and feels “pretty confident” he will make the November debate.

While much of the festival interview focused on the presidential contest, O’Rourke fielded a couple of questions on the 2020 U.S. Senate election in Texas. O’Rourke, who has insisted he will not abandon his presidential bid and run for Senate again after his closer-than-expected loss to Sen. Ted Cruz last year, mentioned five of the candidates by name and said all of them are “extraordinary candidates, any one of whom I’m convinced” can beat Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Asked if he will consider endorsing any of the primary contenders, O’Rourke said no.

“I want to make sure there’s a true competition,” he said. “I don’t want to put my thumb … on the scale.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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