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Rep. Will Hurd’s retirement announcement this week goes beyond the simple numbers–Hurd is the sixth Republican and the third from Texas to decline to seek re-election next year–the 41-year-old was seen both as a GOP rising star, and is the only black Republican in the House.
Hurd also was just one of four House Republicans to vote with Democrats to condemn as racist some of Donald Trump’s tweets against non-white female Democrats.
“I mean, it’s borderline panic both in Texas and in national Republican circles. The official line from the House GOP campaign committee is they’ll fight hard for this seat and it is a seat that they can win in good circumstances. But Hurd is a uniquely talented and hardworking candidate,” said Abby Livingston, Washington bureau chief for the Texas Tribune. “He raises a ton of money. Every Friday night he is flipping a coin at a high school football game in this huge district that is extremely hard to represent. So there is just a real sense this is going to be a hard seat to hold on to, but that someone who cares that much and works that hard is ready to leave Congress is the bigger question and a bigger issue for Republicans right now.”
Hurd may make a political comeback after Trump passes off the political stage, Livingston said.
“I think he still perceives himself as the future, and part of that is not having to go to votes every single day and having to answer questions about Donald Trump,” she said. “And that this may be something about waiting this out, seeing where the party goes after Trump leaves office, whenever that happens, and being able to still reach out to general election voters at a later date, which could be years from now. I think it’s a sign of his youth and that he is still very ambitious.”
But in the short term, Republicans will feel a loss with Hurd’s retirement, agreed MSNBC reporter Garrett Haake.
“It’s really hard to overstate. The fact that Republicans will almost certainly lose that seat in Texas is probably the smallest of the implications here. Hurd was the last Republican representing any stretch of the U.S./Mexico border, so now Republicans lose a credible voice on border issues,” Haake said. “And as Abby pointed out, he is also the only African-American member of the Republican Conference. There is only about a dozen women left in the Republican Conference in the House. The Republican House Conference now is almost entirely just white men. If you’re a party who is trying to expand the map anywhere else, losing someone like Will Hurd is really just disastrous for Republicans in the House.”