Ex-Texas congressman Will Hurd calls Trump a ‘failed politician’ as he launches GOP presidential run

Hurd served three terms in the House through January 2021, becoming the chamber’s only Black Republican during his final two years in office. He is also a former CIA agent who worked in Pakistan

Will Hurd speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-off in West Des Moines, Iowa
Will Hurd speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-off in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. April 22, 2023. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File PhotoEDUARDO MUNOZ (REUTERS)

Former Texas congressman Will Hurd, a onetime CIA officer and fierce critic of Donald Trump, announced Thursday that he’s running for president, hoping to build momentum as a more moderate alternative to the Republican front-runner.

Hurd, 45, served three terms in the House through January 2021, becoming the chamber’s only Black Republican during his final two years in office. “We need common sense,” said Hurd, who made the announcement on CBS Mornings, adding, “I believe the Republican Party can be the party of the future, not the past.”

In a campaign video, the former congressman said that the “soul of our country is under attack,” reminiscent of Democrat Joe Biden’s slogan about the 2020 race being a “battle for the soul of the nation.”

“Our enemies plot, create chaos, and threaten the American Dream. At home, illegal immigration and fentanyl stream into our country. Inflation, still out of control. Crime and homelessness growing in our cities,” Hurd says in the video. “President Biden can’t solve these problems — or won’t. 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 says he’s out to redefine the contours of the 2024 race, and told NBC’s Meet the Press in May that the prospect of another election pitting the current president against the former one would be “the rematch from hell.” On Thursday, he called himself a “dark horse candidate” and said that the only way to win is to “not be afraid of Donald Trump” and that “we also have to articulate a different vision.”

Hurd joins a crowded primary field with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, anti-woke activist Vivek Ramaswamy, radio host Larry Elder and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, in addition to Trump.

The ex-congressman has visited Iowa and New Hampshire in recent months. Trump’s recent indictment on federal felony charges for mishandling classified documents could potentially open the way for critics like Hurd to gain traction in the primary.

Hurd said Thursday that he would not pardon Trump if the former president is convicted in the federal documents case, and he called many of the other Republican White House candidates who rushed to say they would “insane” to make that promise so early in the case.

Hurd said the classification of the documents Trump is accused of mishandling meant they included “information that, if it got into the wrong hands, would lead to a loss of life.”

“And the fact that Donald Trump willingly kept that material, and he wants to be leader of the free world, is unacceptable to me,” Hurd told the CBS early morning show. “It spits in the face of the thousands of men and women who, every single day and every single night, put themselves in harm’s way in order to keep us safe.”

Most of the Republican candidates in the race are trying to run more against Biden than against Trump, who largely remains popular among GOP voters. But Hurd joins Christie and Hutchinson in his willingness to criticize Trump and the former president’s continued hold on the national Republican Party.

Hurd opted not to seek reelection to the House in 2020, saying then that he preferred to “pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.” Last year, he traveled the country on a tour to promote his book, American Reboot: An Idealist’s Guide to Getting Big Things Done.

Hurd represented his state’s then-most competitive district, which was more than 70% Hispanic and stretched from the outskirts of San Antonio to El Paso and encompassed more than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) of the 1,200-mile (1,900-kilometer) Texas-Mexico border.

Before serving in Congress, Hurd was a clandestine officer who worked in Pakistan. He speaks Urdu, that country’s national language.

Although he joins the packed GOP primary with little national profile, Hurd built a reputation in Congress as pro-business and pragmatic, unafraid to seek bipartisan consensus. When a snowstorm canceled flights to Washington in 2017, he rented a car and drove for two days from San Antonio to the nation’s capital with Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a progressive Democrat from El Paso who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2020.

Hurd has focused much of his career on cybersecurity issues but was removed from a keynote speaking slot at a 2019 cybersecurity conference because of his past votes in support of Republican positions on abortion restrictions and against a bill that would financially support women in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

He nonetheless has long been critical of many of the hot-button social issues promoted by other Republicans, tweeting back in 2019 that “Our culture wars have grown to every facet of American life.” Hurd is now pledging to overcome political divides that he says are holding the county back.

“America is better together,” he said Thursday. “And way more unites us than divides us.”

Hurd’s entering the race keeps alive Texas’ longest-in-the-nation streak of having at least one presidential major candidate who rose to public prominence in the state or lived there while running for or holding office. The last time Texas didn’t have a major presidential hopeful was 1972.

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