In the hotly contested Republican primary runoff to represent Texas’ Panhandle in Congress, candidate Josh Winegarner has unveiled another line of attacks aimed at his opponent Ronny Jackson’s service in the U.S. Navy.

Winegarner and Jackson are competing to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry in representing Texas’ 13th Congressional District.

This week, Winegarner launched a new television ad attacking Jackson, using comments from former co-workers of the retired rear admiral. The comments include accusations that Jackson was “abusive” and the “worst officer” Navy members ever served alongside. 

The television ad also includes a link to a new website launched by the Winegarner campaign, criticizing Jackson as a “move-in” candidate for Congress. 

Jackson moved to the 13th District after he retired from the U.S. Navy last year, but he is a Texas Panhandle native.

Winegarner’s recent attacks on Jackson have been criticized by many for being aimed at Jackson’s career in the U.S. Navy. Richard Herman, a U.S. Army veteran who also sought the Republican nomination for the seat in the original primary but has since endorsed Jackson, responded to the new ad in a statement to Texas Scorecard, saying, “It says something about a person’s character, or lack thereof, that they would attack a veteran’s 25 years of service to our country.”

The discussion over the attacks was also reignited during a debate this week between the two candidates in Wichita Falls after Winegarner criticized Jackson for failing to vote by mail while stationed on active duty in the Navy. 

Jackson said his ballot was lost in the mail, but he went on to push back against Winegarner’s line of attack.

“I’m not going to apologize to you or anybody else for my active duty experience and my time at service,” Jackson said: 

“Until you put on that uniform, Mr. Winegarner, and you go over there in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, and you’re away from your family for nine to twelve months out of the year, don’t lecture me about your ability to vote. I’m done with that. I’m not going to apologize to you. You have no idea what it’s like to serve in the military. You have no appreciation for our military. You have no respect for our military. You’ve demonstrated that time and time again.”

This latest round of attacks toward Jackson from the Winegarner campaign comes as a recent Club for Growth poll showed Winegarner trailing Jackson by eight points, with less than a week to go before early voting. That same poll previously had Winegarner leading by 11 points over Jackson as recently as April. 

A Winegarner support PAC has also announced a six-figure ad buy to boost their candidate, with the clock ticking down to Election Day on July 14.

Early voting in this contest begins on June 29.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.