Will Hurd signs copies of his book, “American Reboot: An Idealist’s Guide to Getting Big Things Done,” at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Sept. 22, 2022. (Erika Rich for The Texas Tribune)
Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, announced Thursday he is running for president, becoming the first Texan with experience in elective office to enter the Republican primary.
Hurd, who represented Texas in Congress from 2015-21, begins his campaign as a major underdog. He is an unabashed moderate and a Donald Trump critic in a party where many remain loyal to the former president and frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination.
Hurd revealed his decision in a Thursday morning interview on CBS and followed it up online with an announcement video that began with Hurd listing illegal immigration, inflation and other problems before addressing the current and former presidents.
“President [Joe] Biden can’t solve these problems — or won’t,” Hurd said. “And if we nominate a lawless, selfish, failed politician like Donald Trump — who lost the House, the Senate and the White House — we all know Joe Biden will win again.”
Hurd is poised to be the highest-profile Texan running for president this election cycle, which began with speculation that bigger names, like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott, could vie for the White House. Both now appear unlikely to do so.
A former CIA officer, Hurd represented the 23rd Congressional District, a massive district in South and West Texas that includes hundreds of miles of Mexican border. It was a national battleground district while Hurd held the seat, with both parties pouring millions of dollars into the November elections.
Hurd first won the seat in 2014 and prevailed in hard-fought reelection battles in 2016 and 2018, even as district voters supported Democrats at the top of their tickets those years. Hurd opted against running for a fourth term in 2020, though the seat remained in the GOP column with the election of Hurd’s endorsed candidate, Tony Gonzales.
Hurd’s time in Congress was marked by his willingness to buck his party. He voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, and he supported universal background checks for gun purchases and protections against LGBTQ discrimination.
Hurd also worked across the aisle within the Texas delegation, going on a road trip with then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, in 2017 that they broadcast live online.
Hurd split with Trump in some highly visible ways. Hurd was among the Republicans who called on Trump to drop out of the 2016 presidential race after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape that depicted Trump boasting about groping women. And as Trump pushed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Hurd repeatedly called it the “most expensive and least effective way” to secure the border.
Democrats persistently criticized Hurd as being less independent than he appeared. They pointed out that, for example, he joined most House Republicans in voting against Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.
Hurd was the only Black Republican in the House when he announced his retirement in August 2019.
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Even before he revealed he would not run for reelection, Hurd had made trips to early-voting states, raising the prospect he could seek the presidency. He has spent the past few years continuing to try to raise his national profile, visiting states like New Hampshire, releasing a book and making regular appearances on cable TV.
Hurd has emphasized that the GOP needs a nominee who can not only defeat Biden but also grow the party. He has called Trump a “proven loser,” noting Republicans have lost congressional majorities — not to mention the White House — since Trump came to power in 2016.
It remains to be seen how much Hurd’s message will resonate with GOP voters. He is seldom included in primary polling and is much less well-known than Trump’s other competitors, such as former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. To the extent primary voters are looking for a clean break from Trump, other contenders, such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, are already vying for their support.
Hurd may end up as the highest-profile Texan in the primary. Cruz had considered running for president again this election cycle but has said in recent months that he is focused on his reelection to the Senate. Abbott has not ruled out a White House bid, but the possibility seems less likely as he oversees an anticipated series of special legislative sessions this summer.
Hurd is not the only Texan in the primary. Ryan Binkley, a Dallas-area businessman and pastor, announced a long-shot campaign in April.
Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what’s next for Texas and the nation.
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