Surprise announcement: Rep. Hurd not seeking re-election

This list of Republican lawmakers not seeking re-election is growing. One such announcement caught many of us by surprise Thursday. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas made his decision to not seek a fourth term in the House of Representatives elected office known. His was an unexpected announcement to political observers, even in Texas.

Will Hurd is the only African-American Republican serving in the House of Representatives. His district, TX-23, is a true swing district. Hurd has made it his mission to go to areas not normally courted by Republican lawmakers to spread the message of the GOP. His district stretches from El Paso to San Antonio.

“As the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives and as a congressman who represents a 71% Latino district, I’ve taken a conservative message to places that don’t often hear it,” Hurd said in a statement.

“These Republican ideals resonate with people who don’t think they identify with the Republican Party,” he added. “Every American should feel they have a home in our party.”

It’s a huge blow to Texas Republicans. The district will likely return to the Democrats. Hurd’s announcement is the third such decision delivered recently. Reps. Pete Olson and Mike Conaway also have made their decision to take a pass on re-election known. The DNC and Texas Democrats are targeting Texas and it is no secret that Hurd’s district is at the top of their wishlist. The district is a minority-majority one. The DCCC has opened headquarters in Texas and is targeting six districts currently represented by Republicans, mostly suburban areas. TX-23 is the only district along the southern border of Texas currently held by Republicans. Also, he is one of only three Republicans to represent a district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Hurd, a former CIA agent, is an expert in intelligence gathering. He sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, He is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness. It looks as though he has decided to return to the private sector to continue in his service, though he says he’ll remain involved in politics.

We are in a geopolitical competition with China to have the world’s most important economy. There is a global race to be the leader in artificial intelligence because whoever dominates AI will rule the world. We face growing cyberattacks every day. Extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity and violence in Central America is placing unbearable pressure on our borders. While Congress has a role in these issues, so does the private sector and civil society.

After reflecting on how best to help our country address these challenges, I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.

I left a job I loved in the CIA as an undercover officer to meet what I believed to be a need for new leadership in Congress on intelligence and national security matters. I wanted to help the Intelligence Community in a different way by bringing my knowledge and experience to Congress. I’m leaving the House of Representatives to help our country in a different way. I want to use my knowledge and experience to focus on these generational challenges in new ways. It was never my intention to stay in Congress forever, but I will stay involved in politics to grow a Republican Party that looks like America.

Hurd’s campaigns in TX-23 have always been tough fights. Victories have been squeakers. The Democrat opponent he faced the last cycle is currently running again for the seat. She, like Hurd, has a background in intelligence. She is a former Air Force intelligence officer.

Hurd was first elected in 2014, unseating Democrat Pete Gallego by 2 points. He narrowly won a rematch with Gallego two years later and eked out a third term last year, defeating Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by 926 votes. Several Democrats, including Ortiz Jones, had already begun lining up to challenge him in 2020.

I know from personal experience that it is difficult to keep a Republican in his seat. In his past elections, Republican groups such as the Texas Federation of Republican Women (of which I am a member, though currently inactive) formed strike forces to flood the district with volunteers for Hurd. He was a good candidate for that district. I hope this is not an indication that current Republican members in the House are becoming pessimistic about the possibility of a GOP majority victory in 2020.

Critics may welcome his decision to not seek re-election because Hurd is not a Trump loyalist. That is unfortunate, though, because it is important to remember that in order to hold Republican seats, the choice of candidate is an essential element. Hurd is a strong conservative and a loyal Republican. His voice will be missed.