Texas’ Congressional District 23, a geographically sweeping district stretching from San Antonio almost all the way to just outside El Paso, has been a target for Democrats for years.

With its representation by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, however, one could argue Democrats might as well have held the seat, as Hurd was the most liberal member of the Texas Republican delegation and one of the most liberal Republicans nationwide. During his time in office, Hurd was a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump and his border wall—while at the same time road-tripping with a Democrat colleague, helping propel former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso into prominence.

Fortunately for conservatives, Hurd announced that he would be retiring from Congress after only three terms. Unfortunately for Republicans, a look at the district’s shifting demographics and electoral history show why Hurd may have called it quits.

A 71 percent Hispanic district, Hurd narrowly won CD 23 in 2018 with 49.2 percent of the vote, compared to his Democrat opponent Gina Ortiz Jones’ 48.7 percent.

Nonetheless, nine Republican candidates stepped up to the challenge in the March primary. Now that field is down to two candidates for the runoff election: Tony Gonzales and Raul Reyes.

Both candidates have highlighted their military backgrounds during the campaign: Gonzales served in the Navy and Reyes in the Air Force.

Unlike their predecessor Hurd, they have both also embraced President Donald Trump in their campaign materials. From Ballotpedia:

“A Gonzales campaign ad said he was ‘running for Congress to stand with President Trump and fight for our conservative values, secure our borders, finish the wall, and end sanctuary city policies.’; Reyes calls himself a ‘true constitutional conservative Trump Republican’ and says Gonzales is ‘an elitist who’s already up to his neck in the establishment swamp.'”

Like most open Republican races, a look at each campaign’s website and issue set won’t tell you much, as they both stick to the basic talking points. More, however, can be learned from their endorsements.

Gonzales touts the endorsement of Will Hurd as well as other congressmen, including U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, along with the endorsement of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.

While Gonzales’ support appears to come from the establishment, Reyes’ endorsement comes from conservative grassroots organizations, including Texas Right to Life and Young Conservatives of Texas.

CD 23 runs from just outside San Antonio to the suburbs of El Paso and includes Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Loving, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Presidio, Reagan, Reeves, Schleicher, Sutton, Terrell, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Ward, Winkler, and Zavala counties, as well as portions of Bexar, El Paso, and La Salle counties.

With the Chinese coronavirus delaying the runoff election to July 14, voters in CD 23 can expect this race to heat up in the coming weeks.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens