Rep. Will Hurd, the lone black Republican in the House and the rare GOP lawmaker to at times criticize President Trump, will not seek reelection, he told The Washington Post.
Hurd’s retirement is the third by a Texas Republican in the past week and the ninth by a party incumbent, dealing a blow to GOP efforts to regain control of the House in next year’s election.
With Hurd’s retirement, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) would be the lone black Republican in Congress.
Hurd barely held the seat last year and Trump lost the congressional district, which covers more than 58,000 square miles between San Antonio and El Paso along the Mexican border, by four percentage points in 2016.
In an interview Thursday with The Post, Hurd criticized Trump’s racist tweets last month in which the president said four Democratic minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the women are from the United States; a fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), is a Somali refugee who became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.
“When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said.
But Hurd also repeated his earlier pledge to vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee in 2020. He said Hispanics, African Americans and other groups would be receptive to conservative themes if they weren’t drowned in racially charged rhetoric.
More recently, Trump targeted House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and his city of Baltimore, tweeting that “No human being would want to live” in the “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” city. The remarks prompted widespread accusations of racism, which Trump has denied.
“Number one, show up to communities that haven’t seen Republicans show up. And listen,” Hurd said. “And then the message that you take is how we have solved some problems in our communities. When you look at African American unemployment, Latino unemployment, it’s an all-time low.”
Hurd’s announcement Thursday came as Trump escalated his attacks on Baltimore and other diverse, liberal cities, as he told a crowd in Cincinnati that Democrats “deliver poverty for their constituents and privilege for themselves.”
Hurd, 41, said he plans to run again for elected office, though he didn’t specify which one. He has made or scheduled trips in recent months to New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, with an eye toward the 2024 Republican presidential calendar.
“I think I can help the country in a different way. I’m interested in pursuing my lifelong passions at that intersection of technology and national security,” said the former CIA officer. “And I think I have an opportunity to help make sure the Republican Party looks like America.”
Hurd, who represents a district that includes 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other House member, has been a frequent critic of Trump’s border wall proposal, calling it a “third-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” He instead favored increased use of technology and additional Border Patrol staffing.
He opposed Trump’s national emergency declaration to divert funds to border wall construction and was one of only 14 Republicans to vote to override the president’s veto of a bill that sought to block the national emergency.
Hurd called on Trump to abandon his presidential bid in October 2016 after The Post reported on an audio tape in which the GOP nominee boasted of groping women, one of only a handful of Republican elected officials to do so.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Hurd frequently warned about Russian election interference and was less strident than other Republicans in criticism of investigations of Trump.
But Hurd joined fellow Republicans on the committee in 2017 in saying there was no evidence of conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. In March, he and the other Republicans called on Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to step down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, accusing the lawmaker of lying about Trump’s actions after former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.
The Mueller report did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. The probe did not make a determination as to whether Trump obstructed justice.
Schiff rejected the criticism and the GOP calls.
Hurd was first elected in 2014, defeating incumbent Democrat Pete Gallego by 2,400 votes. He beat Gallego by 3,000 votes in a 2016 rematch, then defeated Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by fewer than 1,000 votes last year.
He said he believes he would have won in 2020 if he decided to seek reelection. Ortiz Jones has announced she is again seeking the seat. Hurd’s retirement probably will draw other Democrats and Republicans to the race.
In a brief statement, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, thanked Hurd for his service, called him a “patriot” and insisted that the party would “fight tooth and nail” to maintain control of the district in 2020.
Avery Jaffe, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, promised that Democrats would with the seat and said, “If Will Hurd doesn’t believe he can keep his job in a changing Texas, his colleagues must be having second thoughts too.”
Fellow Texas Republican Reps. Pete Olson and K. Michael Conaway also announced in recent days that they would retire. Olson’s Houston-area seat is expected to be a top Democratic target next year, but Conaway’s Midland seat is probably safe for Republicans.
Democrats picked up two additional Texas House seats in the 2018 midterms, and the state has long been seen by the party as one of its top opportunities because of rapid demographic change.
The number of Texas Hispanics has grown by 1.9 million since the 2000 Census, accounting for more than half of the state’s population growth. In Hurd’s district, 70 percent of residents are Hispanic.
Republicans have won every statewide race in Texas since 1998, but Hurd said Texas — with its 38 electoral votes — should be viewed as a purple state. He said Democrats have a chance to carry Texas in the 2020 presidential election. A Democratic presidential candidate last won Texas in 1976 when Jimmy Carter captured the state.
“When you look at trends, the two-largest growing groups of voters are Latinos and young people. And we know what the broader trends are happening there,” Hurd said.