Will Hurd’s Retirement Is A Warning Sign For The GOP

The only African-American Republican in the House of Representatives is retiring, and that should worry Republicans nationwide.

The only African-American Republican in the House of Representatives, and the only Republican representing a Congressional District that includes land that touches the southern border with Mexico has announced his retirement from Congress:

EL PASO — Representative Will Hurd of Texas, the only black Republican in the House, announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election next year, adding to a wave of departures that has unsettled party leaders as they hope to reclaim the majority in 2020.

Mr. Hurd, who is also the only Republican to represent a district along the southwestern border, is the sixth House Republican and the third Texan in the past 10 days to announce retirement. After the 2020 election, Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, will be the only black Republican incumbent in Congress.

“Two centuries ago, I would have been counted as three-fifths of a person, and today, I can say I’ve had the honor of serving three terms in Congress,” Mr. Hurd said Thursday in a statement. “I will keep fighting to remind people why I love America: that we are neither Republican nor Democrat nor independent.” He did not say what he planned to do next. Before serving in Congress, Mr. Hurd was an undercover C.I.A. officer.

His announcement on Thursday made clear that the Republicans’ path to reclaiming the majority in the House and diversifying their party’s membership was becoming increasingly difficult. Two of 13 female incumbents — Representatives Martha Roby of Alabama and Susan W. Brooks of Indiana, who is a leader in candidate recruitment — and a handful of moderates are not planning to run again.

In the past few days, Representatives K. Michael Conaway of Texas, Rob Bishop of Utah and Paul Mitchell of Michigan also announced their plans to retire, while Representative Rob Woodall of Georgia made his decision known in February.

FiveThirtyEight’s composite of polling posted this week reported that on average, 46.1 percent of people say they would vote for Democrats in next year’s congressional elections, against 40 percent who favor Republicans.

Hours after Mr. Hurd’s announcement, David Wasserman, the House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said the report’s prediction for Mr. Hurd’s district had been moved to “leaning Democrat” from “tossup.” The Texas district represented by Pete Olson, another Republican who recently announced his retirement, is also now rated as “tossup.”

(…)

Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the head of the House Republican campaign arm, on Thursday hailed Mr. Hurd’s “lifetime of service to our country” and vowed to “fight tooth and nail to ensure it remains in Republican hands in 2020.”

But Mr. Emmer’s Democratic counterparts, who have already singled out Texas as a 2020 target, voiced the same confidence. Avery Jaffe, a spokesman for the House Democratic campaign organization, said in a statement that “if Will Hurd doesn’t believe he can keep his job in a changing Texas, his colleagues must be having second thoughts, too.”

Ms. Ortiz Jones, who lost to Mr. Hurd in 2018 and has declared her intention to run in 2020, said in a statement that she respected Mr. Hurd’s “decision to serve in a new capacity” and vowed to fill his void.

Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, whose district in El Paso borders Mr. Hurd’s, said in a brief interview in El Paso that she hoped “now that he is no longer running for office, that he’s liberated and can speak truthfully about the danger of this lawless president.”

Amber Phillips at The Washington Post notes that of all the recent retirement announcements by Republican candidates, Hurd’s likely hits the GOP the hardest:

The Republican Party under Trump is becoming a party that is not welcoming to someone such as Hurd. He was one of four House Republicans who voted last month to condemn Trump’s racist tweets that four minority lawmakers should “go back” home. That week, crowds at Trump’s rally in North Carolina chanted “Send her back!” about one of them, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Two of those four GOP House members are retiring. (The other is Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana.) Now there is just one black Republican in all of Congress, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

That reality stings for the Republican Party, at least the section of it that still thinks racial inclusivity, not inflammation, is its future.

In an exit interview of sorts with Robert Moore of The Washington Post on Thursday, Hurd referenced Trump’s outright racist tweets that four minority congresswomen should “go back” to their homes. It’s possible he was considering retirement before this, but you don’t have to read too much between the lines to understand this was the situation that helped push him out the door.

“When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American, and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said.

Hurd represents the exact kind of district Republicans need to hold on to or win to retake the majority in 2020. His border district is 70 percent Hispanic; it’s a battleground district in a state that has the potential to become a battleground state.

Hurd’s district is an example of the places where many think the not-too-distant battles for power will play out. He doesn’t seem to see much future there for his party, at least not under Trump.

“When you look at trends, the two-largest growing groups of voters are Latinos and young people. And we know what the broader trends are happening there,” Hurd told Moore.

In addition to being critical of the President at times, most recently in response to his racist tirades against the so-called “squad” and against Congressman Elijah Cummings. Additionally, Hurd has differentiated himself from nay other Republicans on the Hill due to the fact that he often went against the President and his own party. According to FiveThirtyEight, Hurd voted with Trump roughly half the time, which puts him near the bottom of the pack. Additionally, he was opposed to the President’s border wall, which would particularly impact his district. Hurd also frequently spoke out against Republican positions on a number of issues, warning that the party was endangering its future in Texas and elsewhere by becoming out-of-step with younger and Latino voters, two voting blocs that will only become more important in coming years. Despite this, Republicans generally refrained from attacking him due to the importance of holding on to his district. With his retirement, the odds that they’ll be able to do so are exceedingly low..

Hurd’s retirement is also another sign of the extent to which the Republican Party has changed since the rise of Donald Trump. Hurd is the kind of Republican that the GOP ought to see as a guidepost rather than relegating him to the sidelines as has occurred under the Trump Administration. Not only is he a member of a minority group, something that is exceedingly rare among Republicans on Capitol Hill, but he also represents a district that with a large and growing Latino population whose support he has managed to maintain even as the party as a whole moves in a direction seemingly designed to keep Latino voters away. As such, he is, or at least was, the guide for a future for the Republican Party radically different from the one Donald Trump would guide it too. Now, with his retirement, there will be exactly one African-American Republican among the 535 members of the House and Senate, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. The GOP is becoming the white party, and specifically the party of white men, just when the nation as a whole is moving toward greater diversity. That is not the prescription for long-term survival.

As noted, Hurd’s announcement is just the latest made by several long-serving House Republicans who are retiring rather than running for re-election. While some of these retirements come in Districts that are most likely safely Republican, others come in places that Democrats could conceivably win, thus increasing their majority in Congress. As Michelle Cottle notes in The New York Times these announcements should raise concerns among Republicans:+

There are as many reasons to flee Congress as there are members of Congress — more, actually. That said, lawmakers often start eyeing the exits with special longing when stuck in the minority with little hope of escape. Unlike in the Senate, where every lawmaker has some ability to influence — or at least disrupt — operations, life in the House minority tends to be a soul-crushing experience. The out-of-power party has vanishingly little opportunity to shape the agenda, or even to have a voice in the debate, leaving most members with all the influence and glamour of a grade-school hall monitor.

Add to this the strain of endlessly being asked to defend the rantings of a volatile president who prides himself on being offensive. While some Republican lawmakers seem to thrive in the role of Trump apologist, others find it “exhausting and often embarrassing,” as one confided to The Hill this week. “Serving in the Trump era has few rewards,” said the member.

In terms of electoral impact, not all retirements are created equal. Ms. Roby and Mr. Conaway hail from blood-red districts that the party is expected to hold. But Ms. Brooks’s district is more competitive, and Mr. Woodall’s and Mr. Olson’s are considered tossups.

Some of the departures are problematic for the party’s overall brand. Ms. Brooks and Ms. Roby are two of only 13 women in a Republican conference with 197 members. (Eighty-nine of the House’s 235 Democrats are women.) Ms. Brooks is in charge of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a special interest in diversification. For a party desperate to improve its image among women voters, her exit is not a promising development.

Then there’s the lemming effect. For each member who decides to pack up his toys and go home, it becomes that much more imaginable for other wavering members to follow. This risks fueling a narrative of a party in meltdown.

The other big impact of these retirements, of course, is that it makes it more likely that the remaining members of the House Republican Caucus will be of the hard-right Trumpidian variety, thus pushing the caucus specifically and the GOP in general further to the right at a time when that seems to be falling out of favor in the nation as a whole. Even if President Trump is somehow re-elected next year, the odds that it will be able to take back the House of Representatives.next year thus becomes less likely. As it stands, the odds are that Republicans will be able to flip some Democratic districts next year, particularly those where Democrats won in districts that have traditionally gone Republican. The more retirements it has to deal with, though, the less likely it becomes that the GOP will be able to come anywhere close to winning the 21 seats it needs to get a majority in that body. Losing a seat like Hurd’s just makes it harder.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:
  2. Kathy says:

    I wouldn’t worry about the string of House GOP retirements. We saw something exactly alike in 2018, and things turned out very well.

    Not for the GOP, no. But for everyone else.

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  3. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Some commentators are calling the recent spate of retirements in the state “Texodus.”

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: I saw that earlier this morn. Gave me a good chuckle.

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  5. Teve says:

    I don’t know much about Sean Trende but RCP is serious.

    Sean T at RCP
    @SeanTrende
    ·
    1h
    People grossly oversold GOP vulnerability in TX pre-Trump and are grossly underselling it now. Texas is an overwhelmingly urban/suburban state, so GOP weakening in the suburbs is felt disproportionately in TX. It could go blue, quickly, under this current configuration

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  6. michael reynolds says:

    In culinary terms the GOP is a reduction. They’re simmering until they’ve boiled off all POC and women. Then, mmm, tasty racist goodness.

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: I had to give that a thumbs up.

    ReplyReply
  8. Kylopod says:

    @Teve:

    I don’t know much about Sean Trende

    RCP is a right-leaning site, but Trende tends to be fair and data-oriented, kind of a conservative Nate Silver. He was one of the earliest commentators to see some potential in Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid.

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  9. KM says:

    @Teve @Kylopod :

    Has anyone discussed the ramifications of Texas going purple / blue other then in political terms? The social aspects are quite frightening, to be honest. It’s one thing to talk about it as a possibility but another to have it actually happen. I can’t help but think it will be a huge culture shock to the right. TX embodies (or at least projects) a lot of their supposed ideals and losing it would be a significant blow to their psyche. It would mean the near certainty of never holding the White House again and likely being the minority party in the House for decades. It would be confirmation of their worst fears: the libs are taking over and they’re a dying breed. For many, it might be the last straw to see the GOP put down on their own home turf.

    We talk about TX going blue as a good thing. I fear with the rising white nationalism and MAGA sentiments it will be something we pay for in blood. There will be screams about electoral fraud and fake elections and people refusing to believe that Texas of all places went lib. It’s almost inevitable that someone’s going to die over this. That’s depressing on so many levels….

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  10. Kylopod says:

    @KM: I’ve been hearing reports of the GOP’s impending demise for so long it’s hard not to grow cynical about it, especially at a time when they still control the presidency, the Senate, the courts, and most state governments. It feels like we’re the mustachioed villains shaking our fist and saying “Next time, just you wait!” The last thing I’m inclined to do is start worrying about the negative side effects of future victory that has so far eluded us. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    If Texas turns blue anytime soon it would very likely be in the course of a national landslide in which the Dems have won handily through other states. In other words, it’s unlikely to be a tipping-point state. At best, it would be a “cherry on top” state, like Indiana in 2008.

    In any case, the Dems’ growing strength in the Sun Belt has happened at around the same time the GOP has grown stronger in other portions of the country. It’s kind of like the way Virginia became Democratic at around the same time WV became Republican–yet in the transitional period it enabled Bush to win both states. We’re currently in a similar transitional period now.

    There are always going to be tradeoffs in any sort of political realignment, and I feel that if the GOP really finds itself getting squeezed out of power, it’ll soon find ways to adapt. The current system is so heavily skewed in their favor, and they’re so busy packing the courts for generations to come, that I think it’ll be a while before Dems reap the benefits of the supposed coming realignment anyway.

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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @KM:
    It’s hard to sustain a terrorist movement in a country with a functioning legal system. The Germans had the Red Army Faction that sort of sputtered along for a couple of decades. The Basque ETA, ditto. The IRA Provos.

    Digital tech makes it easier for these people to organize but much, much harder to hide. I’ll tell you from my own personal experience it was pretty easy getting around in this country without ID in the 80’s and 90’s. I’d hate to be a fugitive now – it requires extraordinary devotion to tradecraft if the FBI or God help you the intel agencies are looking for you.

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  12. charon says:

    @Teve: He made a big splash a few years back by saying the path to Electoral College success for the GOP was mobilizing white voters who were not bothering to vote. He was half right, half wrong.

    He was right that goosing white voter turnout would succeed, example Trump.

    He was wrong that the way to mobilize these voters was with economic policies. It didn’t occur to him that substituting racism/bigotry train whisting for dog whistling would work as well as it did.

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  13. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds: and like all reductions, they’re thicker than they used to be 😛

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  14. charon says:

    @charon:

    I should add, he was specifically identifying WWC as the demographic not voting enough, so saying more economic policies to appeal to WWC.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I recall when all you needed to show in order to board a plane was a boarding pass. No one asked for ID, except for international travel where you needed to show a passport. Even then, you showed the passport on departure at the check-in counter only, and on arrival at immigration/customs.

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  16. mattbernius says:

    @Kylopod:

    I’ve been hearing reports of the GOP’s impending demise for so long it’s hard not to grow cynical about it, especially at a time when they still control the presidency, the Senate, the courts, and most state governments. It feels like we’re the mustachioed villains shaking our fist and saying “Next time, just you wait!” The last thing I’m inclined to do is start worrying about the negative side effects of future victory that has so far eluded us. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    This!

    This!!!!

    This!!!!!!!!!

    We are at least a decade away from the demographic shifts necessary to lead to any real change in the Republican party. And even then, they will still have a good chance of maintaining control of the Senate, because the realities of internal migration within the States are leading towards both sides consolidating power within their existing strongholds.

    And given that the structure of our system provides significant power to rural areas, that means that the GOP can continue to hold a significant amount of power — relative to it’s share of the population — for quite some time to come. Especially since, even if/when they move into the minority, they can still slow down any forward progress towards more representation democratic systems (if the Dems even want to advance those changes).

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  17. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..passport
    Took the train with a friend all the way from Sleepytown to Quebec City via Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal in 1970 (2680 miles round trip) and drove to Ensenada, Baja California in 1974.
    Those are the only places outside the US I have visited in my 71 years.
    I am sure I did not have or need a passport to cross those international boundaries in either direction at the time. Might have had to present a drivers license which in those days did not even have a picture on it, don’t recall.
    I remember changing money at Windsor.
    I think the Yankee Dollar was good in the Baja.

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American, and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said.

    No problem then. I’m willing to put up my Voodoo donut against your dollar that Trump believes that Hurd is not really an American and also has less worth as a human being (assuming that Hurd is human at all) than Donald Trump.

    I can hear the dog klaxon just fine. And normally, I need a hearing aid to hear most anything clearly.

    ETA: Also, the party hasn’t changed. The message is just obnoxiously clear now. Trump isn’t the cancer. He’s only a T-cell.

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  19. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Things were somewhat looser back then, and Americans had fewer travel restrictions than Mexicans. But I’d be lying if I said I knew how things worked back then for US citizens.

    I can tell you every time I entered the US in the 70s and 80s, I had to present a passport and a valid visa. At the border, the visa sufficed if you were going to stay in the immediate border area. If you were headed farther north, there was additional paperwork, and a passport was required.

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  20. Barry says:

    @KM: “TX embodies (or at least projects) a lot of their supposed ideals and losing it would be a significant blow to their psyche. ”

    F*ck their feelings; destroy their power and deal with the sore losers.

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  21. An Interested Party says:

    @mattbernius: I wonder what the next Democratic president will do to try to get around the Senate should it stay in Republican hands…how far will he/she go to neutralize GOP power and how successful will that even be…

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  22. Pete S says:

    @Kathy: Entering the US from Canada was a different story through the 90’s. I live in a Canadian border city, I remember once going drinking over the border and forgetting my wallet. No ID was a big deal at the bar but not going through customs.

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: From the mid ’80s thru the mid ’00’s, a driver’s license and a birth certificate were sufficient for travel thru out Mexico for a US citizen. Pretty sure things have changed now but I don’t know as I haven’t been back since ’05/’06.

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  24. Tyrell says:

    @Kylopod: Do I feel a third party opportunity coming on? Think about it. There are many minorities who have conservative views, but are uncomfortable with Donald Trump. They are hard working people with middle class values. Then there are the Democrats who are completely turned off by the increasingly socialist bent of the Democratic Party: free college, single payer forced health care, open borders, guaranteed income; paid for with a 60% tax rate on the middle class working people. There are a lot of Southern Democrats who have felt rejected by party that they grew up with (party of Johnson, Fulbright, Ervin, Connally, Carter)
    There are plenty of good, common sense, sound candidates who would fit well and be very popular. people might be surprised at who might run
    Allen Keyes? A man who does not deal in “touchy sound bites and slogans”. He and others would do well. Sensible, honest.

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: As long as you remember that voters want to want a third party waaaaaaayyyyyyy more than they want to have a third party, your little pipe dream should be okay. If you start believing that it’s a real possibility, put down the bong and walk away.

    ETA: Alan Keyes? Is that the bong talkin’?

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  26. charon says:

    @Tyrell:

    Allen Keyes? A man who does not deal in “touchy sound bites and slogans”. He and others would do well. Sensible, honest.

    Allen Keyes whose 27% share of the vote became known as the “crazyfication factor.”

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: As I noted, that’s clearly the bong’s influence.

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  28. mattbernius says:

    Shorter @Tyrell:
    We golly gee folks, I see that conservatives of color think Trump is a racist, but what do they know. I’ll be voting for him anyway because Democrats are the devil.

    Now where did I put my sweet tea and that VHS copy of “Song of the South?”

    What do people have against that movie anyway? Darn to heck those thin skinned city slickin liberals.

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