Rep. Will Hurd, vulnerable Texas Republican, announces he won't seek reelection

By Aaron Navarro

/ CBS News

GOP struggles to recruit women for the House

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, the sole black Republican lawmaker in the House and one of the few elected officials in the party to openly criticize President Trump, announced on Thursday he will not seek reelection next year, becoming the sixth GOP member to seek retirement in the last two weeks.

Hurd made the announcement in a statement and on Twitter, where he said he will continue to "pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security."

He also tweeted that he's "taken a conservative message to places that don't often hear it. I'm going to [stay] involved in politics to help make sure the Republican Party looks like America."

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Hurd, a former CIA officer, has represented his sprawling border district in south Texas since he toppled a Democratic incumbent in 2014. He has been reelected twice by razor thin margins in 2016 and 2018, when he bested Iraq war veteran Gina Ortiz Jones by fewer than 1,000 votes and became one of the few Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 to survive the Democratic wave during the 2018 midterms.

The Texas Republican has often isolated himself from the president and criticized some of his immigration proposals, including the construction of a wall along the entire U.S.-border. He has also supported legislation to place young undocumented immigrants, dubbed DREAMers, on a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

His decision on Thursday is likely to disappoint Republicans and invigorate Democrats, who, along with playing defense to protect their majority in the House during the November 2020 elections, are also targeting swing districts, especially those with large Latino communities like Hurd's. Nearly 65% of eligible voters in Texas' 23rd Congressional District are Latino.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has eyed Hurd's Texas district as one of the most vulnerable in 2020 and Ortiz Jones has already filed for a rematch.

In the second quarter, Hurd raised about $200,000 more than Ortiz Jones and had close to $713,000 cash on hand.

Democrats are looking to capitalize on Hurd's announcement and prove that Texas will be a big battleground for 2020.

"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," said Texas Democratic Party Director Manny Garcia.

Hurd's announcement follows Rep. Mike Conaway, another Republican congressman from Texas who announced his retirement yesterday. There have been six Republican members in the past two weeks that have said they would not seek reelection in 2020.

Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey told CBS News on Wednesday that early retirement announcements do make it easier to find competitive candidates. Dickey said the party appreciated Hurd's service and for "frequently going against the grain for what he believed was right for his constituents."

"We wish him well and hope that he will stay involved as we fight to defend Texas' 23rd Congressional District!" Dickey said in a statement.

The DCCC had six Texas districts on their 2020 target list, the most of any state.

"Hurd has been a lockstep supporter of the worst of Washington Republicans' policies and he sealed his fate when he pledged to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. Democrats will win this seat and if Will Hurd doesn't believe he can keep his job in a changing Texas, his colleagues must be having second thoughts too," said DCCC spokesperson Avery Jaffe in a statement.

First published on August 1, 2019 / 9:11 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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