In last night’s televised debate against Tony Gonzales, Gina Ortiz Jones had a singular objective: reiterating her plan for quality affordable and accessible healthcare, versus her opponent’s non-plan to provide protections for pre-existing conditions. For Gonzales, a former career cryptologist, his goal was to continually lie about Jones’s record.
Moderator Steve Spriester from KSAT-TV kept a brisk pace and allowed rebuttals from the candidates to challenge allegations. That was extremely advantageous to Jones who could combat false allegations from Gonzales, who claimed Jones supports the Green New Deal and wants to defund the police.
After a brief introductory question about the biggest challenge each candidate overcame, the real debate began. Spriester started by asking Jones a viewer question about her residence. Gonzales has falsely accused Jones of not living in the district. Throughout the debate, he also referred to her as a “virtual candidate.”
Jones took that as an opportunity to talk about being a “product of 78245.” She listed the schools she attended and even the church, also in the district, where she had received her first communion. As to owning a condo in D.C., Jones pointed to her previous background at the Defense Intelligence Agency. The San Antonio Express-News recently obtained a letter about a lease agreement with the tenant who now rents the D.C. condo.
In addition to Spriester, questions came from community members at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, the site of the debate. In a question about the denial of scientific evidence at the highest levels of government, the questioner challenged both Jones and Gonzales to follow the science on issues and asked for their views.
Jones agreed, saying she supports science-based evidence and criticized Gonzales for holding events without social distancing or masks. Gonzales replied that he has been wearing a mask around the district, and pivoted to Jones’s alleged support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In fact, the previous Sunday he was at a packed church without a mask.
Even as further questions were asked on topics ranging from the border wall to the energy sector, it was clear that healthcare was the dominant topic of the debate. Jones hammered Gonzales numerous times for his support of eliminating the Affordable Care Act, and its protections for preexisting conditions.
When Spriester asked each candidate about protecting pre-existing conditions, Jones emphasized her support for expanding the Affordable Care Act to include a public option. Gonzales did not have specific plans regarding pre-existing conditions. He did mention increased funding for community health centers and protecting medical centers from lawsuits. He also alleged that Jones supports eliminating away private insurance.
In their closing statements, Gonzales once again attempted to tie Jones to positions she does not support: namely the Green New Deal, and defunding the police. Earlier, Jones answered a question about petroleum energy, by emphasizing her support for increasing solar and wind energy as a means of increasing jobs in Texas and keeping the state competitive in the energy sector.
Gonzales also accused Jones of being a Washington bureaucrat and criticized her for not holding any in-person events since March. In fact, Jones has attended numerous socially distanced events in the district, including the San Antonio food bank.
In her closing, Jones spoke movingly about her own story and her own experience with the healthcare system after her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She also encouraged the audience to vote early in-person starting next Tuesday. “Healthcare is on the ballot,” said Jones.
Photo: Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call