Texas Rep. Will Hurd, the only African American Republican in the House, announced Thursday evening that he will not run for reelection next year. The news is a blow to House Republicans looking to win back the majority, since Hurd is in one of the most competitive districts in the country and withstood the Democratic wave in 2018.
The three-term congressman, whose 23rd District stretches from El Paso to San Antonio along the U.S.-Mexico border, said he made the decision “in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”
“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.”
Hurd, a former CIA agent, has been among the few Republican members of Congress to criticize President Donald Trump. He recently was one of just four House GOP lawmakers to vote to condemn Trump’s comments about four minority congresswomen as racist.
House Democrats are heavily targeting Texas this election cycle, and the 23rd District is at the top of their list. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has opened up headquarters in the Lone Star State and is targeting six GOP-held seats, largely in the increasingly diversifying Texas suburbs.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer said the GOP “will fight tooth and nail to ensure” Hurd’s district “remains in Republican hands in 2020.”
“Contrary to what the pundits will tell you, this is an R+1 district,” the Minnesota Republican said in a statement.
But without Hurd, the district likely becomes even more competitive for Democrats. DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe said in a statement, “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.”
Hurd is one of just three Republicans to represent a district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton won the seat by 3 points. The district is also the only one along the southern border that the GOP currently holds.
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.
“After years of serving our country, first in the CIA and then in Congress, I respect Congressman Hurd’s decision to serve in a new capacity,” Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, said in a statement. “From San Antonio to Socorro and everywhere in between, Texans are ready for new leadership in Washington and I’m ready to serve.”
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales changed the race rating for the 23rd District race from a Toss-up to Lean Democratic after Hurd’s retirement.