The last remaining African American Republican in Congress, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, announced he will not run for reelection, a decision that could further shift Texas’ political landscape blue.
Hurd, a former CIA officer, was elected in 2014 to represent one of the most racially gerrymandered districts in the country along the U.S.- Mexico border, spanning over 500 miles from San Antonio to El Paso. In a statement Thursday evening, Hurd said he wanted to enter the private sector so he could “solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”
Hurd’s term does not end until 2020, and he said in a statement that he would like to continue promoting free market economics and rail on socialism to his district’s Latinx voters, a community his own political party has feverishly tried to stop from casting a ballot at all.
Hurd is one of the very few Republicans who actually pushed back on some of Trump’s most racist propositions, such as providing funding for Trump’s ineffective vanity wall along the southern U.S. border. In his statement, he touted his record of support for funding Border Patrol agents, exposing students to computer science, training teachers to incorporate coding into their math classes, and shaving costs on government IT purchases.
“Two centuries ago, I would have been counted as three-fifths of a person, and today I can say I’ve had the honor of serving three terms in Congress. America has come a long way and we still have more to do in our pursuit of a more perfect union,” Hurd said.
“I will keep fighting to make certain we successfully meet these generational challenges head on. I will keep fighting to remind people why I love America: that we are neither Republican nor Democrat nor Independent; We are better than the sum of our parts.”
But Texas Democrats see Hurd’s departure as further evidence that the Lone Star State’s political landscape is shifting blue, or at least a shade of purple. Several other prominent Texas Republicans have also announced their retirement from Congress recently, including Rep. Mike Conaway, whose district is located in West Texas, and Rep. Pete Olson, whose district is located south of Houston.
Two of the three retiring Texas Republicans were re-elected to office during the 2018 midterms in November by fairly narrow margins – an election in which Democrats picked up a number of seats in the Texas legislatures and in the U.S. Congress.
The Democratic challenger for one of the state’s Senate seats in 2018 — Beto O’Rourke, who is now running for president — came shockingly close to defeating Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz during that election as well.
In November, Hurd defeated Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, by less than a point with just 926 votes separating the two candidates. Jones has since announced she will compete again for the seat in 2020. Olson, meanwhile, only defeated Democratic challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni by about 5 points in 2018. Kulkarni also announced he will run again in 2020.
Tom Emmer, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee called Hurd a “patriot” in a statement Thursday evening, and said the retiring Congressman represents “an R+1 district” that they “will fight tooth and nail to ensure it remains in Republican hands in 2020,” he said.
However, the state’s Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia called Texas “the biggest battleground state,” in a statement Thursday night. “Republicans know it, and Texas Democrats damn sure know it,” he said.
“Texas Democrats are rising up everywhere, clearly Will Hurd knew his time was up. As we have said before, we wouldn’t be surprised if there were more retirements,” Garcia added.