Will Hurd is a reasonable man in unreasonable times; a sotto voce speaker when politics has never been more boisterous; a purveyor of wry humor on issues which, in less capable hands, demand nothing but seriousness.
These are the qualities which made his lecture at The Mosbacher Institute something which politics nowadays rarely is: fun and educational. It is also, one suspects, a good reason for not reseeking his House seat: People have left far better jobs for which they were far better fits.
Hurd’s congressional district — “Hurd’s 23rd” as I like to call it — is larger than 26 states and spans 820 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. He therefore has a serious wish expressed as a sly joke, reacted to with laughter and applause from the audience on Wednesday night: “I wish I could pass a bill that says if you’ve never been to the border, you can’t talk about the border.” (Yes, Hurd is the rare student of computer science who managed to develop something of a personality.)
Hurd, who graduated from Texas A&M in 2000 with a major in computer science and a minor in international studies, has an engineer’s respect for government’s stubborn facts. When asked by my colleague from the Battalion whether Trump’s border wall would be an effective way to curb illegal immigration, he answered — with an engineer’s precision — that the U.S. Border Patrol measures its response time in hours and days, not minutes, so a wall would do little to deter those who cross our border illegally.
In fact, much of what Hurd proposes is nakedly unsexy — re substantive. He wants more immigration judges on the border to handle the 900,000-case backlog that swells by the day. He wants to continue giving foreign aid — both in terms of money and free trade — to the countries from which illegal immigrants come, as he believes that improved living conditions in those countries will lessen the likelihood that parents will uproot their children in favor of a country where they have never been. His Asylum Reform Act of 2019 would “[r]equire asylum seekers to apply for asylum within two days after arrival in the U.S. rather than within one year as allowed by current law.”
It is this nuanced, balanced approach that makes conversations about his political future so jarring, for it is anything but. A cynic — or, better yet, a realist with a weakness for cynicism — might look at the 2018 election and note that he only won by half a percentage point, or about 1,100 votes. A blue wave swept through the country that year, so unless political patterns break in 2020, turnout will be higher, meaning the chances of Hurd retaining his seat will be lower.
His official resignation announcement did not alleviate suspicions either. One section reads: “I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.” Please. The explanation has a patina of plausibility — Hurd spent close to a decade in the CIA — but the lack of specificity is telling. He might as well have said that he wants to spend more time with his family. (Yes, Paul Ryan, I’m looking at you.)
Moreover, when speaking with the press after the event, Hurd said that he wants to help grow the Republican constituency so that his party looks more like America. Such an observation begs the question: If these are genuinely his motives, why would the House’s only Black Republican leave his perch of power without a fight? Aggies may win, they may lose, but they never quit — but unless Representative Hurd has his sights on becoming Senator or President Hurd, quitting seems to be exactly what he’s doing.
Still, Americans don’t elect congressmen for their astute political commentary — or, for that matter, the reasons they might leave office. They elect congressmen for their ideas, of which Hurd has plenty. Progressives championing the fall of the Republican Party should remember that in America’s two-party system, their partner will always seek to espouse conservative values. So while Hurd would be unlikely to syphon away Democratic voters in 2020, Democrats should nevertheless mourn the loss of one of the more sensible members of their opposition.
He is a man with which both Republicans and Democrats should be able to work. They probably won’t — times being what they are.