Gina Ortiz Jones on sacrifice, commitment to serving community she grew up in

Democrat challenging Rep. Will Hurd for Texas District 23 seat

SAN ANTONIO – In a race featuring big money and a multitude of television ads sits a woman who has never seen her name on a ballot before.

"You've never run for an elected office before?" "No," Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who is running for the District 23 House of Representatives seat, said.

But she is a political newcomer, in familiar territory.

El Rodeo De Jalisco on Potranco Road is where Ortiz Jones and I chat over coffee and take a trip down memory lane.

"Yeah, well I live about a mile and a half from here. This is the neighborhood, this is my community. The duck pond is right down the street (and) I went to Pease Middle School right down the road," Ortiz Jones said.

Ortiz Jones was raised by a single mother, went to John Jay High School and then Boston University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship.

But the road wasn't without its bumps.

Trouble in junior high was a fork in that road and a choice that would change Ortiz Jones’ life.

"I learned then that if you’re not a little bit uncomfortable (then) you’re probably not learning anything, and the importance of giving back to a community that's given me so much," Ortiz Jones said. "That's what this race is all about."

It’s a willingness to challenge the "status quo" that Ortiz Jones said she demonstrated in school, in college, in the Air Force, and in life.

But as a member of the LGBTQ community, Ortiz Jones served during "don't ask, don't tell," a time she admits her outspoken nature was tested.

"I knew there were some sacrifices that I was going to have to make. But you know, I have a long record of putting country above everything else, and now more than ever it's important to do that," Ortiz Jones said.

Hers is a run for office that's getting national attention. She has been on CNN and others, Ortiz Jones said this run is all about her roots.

"I’ve gone from reduced lunch to the Executive Office of the President. This is a special country (and) it's always reinforced to my younger sister and I," Ortiz Jones said.

"My sister still serves, she's in the Navy now, and we were going to have to give back to a country that's given us so much," she said.

Ortiz Jones also talked about the issues she thinks are important to District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to the border and all the way to the edge of El Paso.

"Yeah, the biggest issue is health care, people either can't afford it, they are fearful they won't be able to afford it tomorrow, or they physically can't get to it."

Video: Where Gina Ortiz Jones stands on the issues

Ortiz Jones on Immigration

"We need an immigration policy that reflects our values. We do not have that, and Texas 23 suffers the worst because of that ... a wall would run right through this district. I do not support a border wall, I think it's a huge waste of resources. You might as well light up 25 billion dollars on fire, it would be as effective in addressing that problem as a border wall would be."

Ortiz Jones on whether President Donald Trump will affect this race

"This isn't about running against Donald Trump, this is about representing and standing up for my community, right, whether it be on national security, health care, the economy. We have seen what not being represented looks like, we are getting a raw deal."

Ortiz Jones on Veterans Care

"I went to Iraq, and know firsthand the cost of war, the human cost of war. So, when I think about the questions we need to be asking, the care that we need to provide our veterans, I know why that matters because that was my experience."

Ortiz Jones served the country in uniform for 14 years and was an Air Force intelligence officer. She sees politics as a continuation of her public service.

KSAT 12 anchor Steve Spriester also sat down with Ortiz Jones’ opponent in the District 23 race, Will Hurd. Hurd’s story and stances on issues he thinks are important are also on KSAT.com.

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