Metro Weekly

8 of 10 Victory Fund-endorsed candidates win or advance in Texas primaries

LGBTQ candidates enjoy success in Lone Star State, with Lupe Valdez and Gina Ortiz Jones advancing to runoffs

Gina Ortiz Jones – Photo: Facebook.

LGBTQ candidates running for office in Texas enjoyed success in Tuesday’s primaries, particularly those who had previously earned the endorsement of the Victory Fund, a national organization that seeks to increase LGBTQ representation in government.

Ahead of Tuesday, the Victory Fund had endorsed 10 candidates for various offices, eight of whom either won a spot on the November ballot outright, or advanced to a runoff election on Tuesday, May 22. Under Texas law, party nominees must win 50% plus one vote before advancing to the general election.

Incumbent State Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) won her primary in the District 75 race over MarySue Femath with 68.5% of the vote. Since no Republican has filed for the general election, Gonzalez is all but certain to retain the seat.

Other LGBTQ people who successfully won their party’s nomination included Supreme Court candidate Steven Kirkland, Jerry Simoneaux, running for judge of the Houston-based Probate Court 1, Jim Kovach, candidate for judge of Harris County Circuit Court #2, Beau Miller, candidate for the 190th Civil District Court, and Julie Johnson, who is seeking the 115th House District seat currently held by State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving).

Two other candidates, Gina Ortiz Jones, a candidate for the 23rd Congressional District, and Fran Watson, a candidate for the Houston-based 17th State Senate District, will advance to the May 22 runoff elections.

“Eights of our 10 endorsed candidates won their primary or advanced in the runoff last night — a significant victory given the challenge of running in a deep red state like Texas,” Sean Meloy, the political director of Victory Fund, said in a statement. “We are on-track to have a historic election year for our community in Texas — including electing the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from the state. But we have lots of work to do to ensure our candidates win in the run-off and the general. We are extremely optimistic about the opportunities in Texas, but we are under no illusions that it is an easy road ahead.”

Ortiz Jones, an out lesbian, is considered one of the strongest LGBTQ candidates in the state — and one of the stronger congressional candidates in the nation — this cycle, as she’s running against a Republican incumbent in a swing district where Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in 2016. If she advances to the general election, as expected, she has, at worst, a 50/50 shot of unseating U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.

Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force officer, has also been endorsed by Equality PAC, the political action committee for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, earning its first non-incumbent endorsement of the 2018 cycle. On Tuesday, she finished first with 41.5% of the vote in a five-way primary.

“Gina’s clear first-place finish is a decisive statement that the people of the Texas 23rd are ready to embrace Gina’s vision in the general election,” Equality PAC Chair Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Gina’s lifetime commitment to defending our national values clearly resonated with the voters and we are confident her message of a more equal and fair country for all people will lead her to victory.”

Another LGBTQ candidate, Lupe Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas County, advanced to the runoff as the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary for governor, with 42.9% of the vote. If she can defeat businessman Andrew White (the son of former Gov. Mark White) in the runoff, she would become the first LGBTQ statewide nominee of a major party in Texas, and the first Latina nominee of a major party in Texas. 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at