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Texas Democrat attends House orientation amid contested race

November 16, 2018

FILE - This combination of file photos shows candidates for Texas' 23rd District Congressional seat in the November 2018 election from left, incumbent GOP Rep. Will Hurd and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. Ortiz Jones has headed to Washington for congressional orientation even though she trails incumbent Hurd by 1,000 votes in their contested race to represent a sprawling West Texas district. The race is close enough that Ortiz Jones could seek a recount. She is about 1,000 votes behind Hurd out of around 209,000 counted. She hasn't so far, instead seeking to have more provisional votes counted. (AP Photo/File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones has been in Washington attending orientation for new members of Congress despite Republican incumbent Rep. Will Hurd continuing to hold a lead of 1,000-plus votes in their contested race to represent a sprawling West Texas district.

Ortiz Jones could seek a recount and still has a couple of weeks to do so. She hasn’t so far but also hasn’t conceded — instead saying she’s working to ensure that “every vote is counted.” A spokeswoman for her campaign did not immediately return a phone message Friday.

Hurd leads Ortiz Jones by 1,150 votes, out of a little more than 209,000 counted. The margin between the two candidates is 0.55 percent. Texas law allows, the trailing candidate to request — and pay for — a recount as long as the margin is less than 10 percent of the leading candidate’s vote total.

Because of the recount option, the race is one of six congressional elections nationally where The Associated Press has not declared a winner, in some cases because officials are still counting votes.

The 800-mile district runs from San Antonio to El Paso and is a perennial battleground. Hurd, who was first elected in 2014, has already declared victory.

Democrats flipped Republican-held Texas congressional seats in Dallas and Houston on the way to gaining control of the House.

Ortiz Jones isn’t the only Democrat trailing her race to attend congressional training in Washington this week. Meanwhile, her campaign has pushed to get counted more provisional ballots, which were cast but not counted until certain problems — like voters not having correct ID — were resolved.

But the deadline for remedying those passed Tuesday, and a state district judge denied Ortiz Jones’ request earlier this week to extend it for another 48 hours in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio. Her campaign has since filed an open records request with officials in smaller Medina County, asking for more information about why vote totals appeared to change while officials were counting ballots on Election Night.

The race could remain in limbo for a while.

Texas’ deadline for recount requests is 5 p.m. on the second day after the final canvass of results. Counties statewide have until Tuesday to report their canvass results to the secretary of state. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has until Dec. 6 — one month after Election Day — to conduct a final statewide canvass, though those are typically completed by late November, according to secretary of state spokesman Sam Taylor.

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