On Thursday evening, Texas Republican Will Hurd announced he would not seek reelection in 2020, retiring after a ten-year career representing Texas’s vast 23rd Congressional District, spanning from the suburbs of San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso. A former CIA operations officer, Hurd said he is leaving to explore “opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”
The only black Republican currently in Congress, Hurd faced his most difficult reelection in the 2018 midterms, winning over Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones by less than 1,000 votes in one of the most expensive House races in state history. As the third Texas Republican to announce his retirement this week — Hurd is joined by Pete Olsen of the competitive Houston suburb of Sugar Land and Mike Conaway of Midland — his decision not to seek reelection has stoked Democratic hopes and Republican fears that a retirement wave in 2020 will gut the party’s chances to take back the House. That Hurd is resigning from his seat in one of the few real swing districts in future-purple Texas further cements those thoughts, as incumbents are far more likely to hang onto a seat than a challenger is to take it from them. And as a swing-seat Republican of color who stood up to the president more frequently than the average rank-and-file representative, the GOP might not find a candidate as strong as Hurd to hang onto the 23rd, which is over 70 percent Latino.
To take back the House, Republicans will need to flip 19 seats under Democratic control; already, there have been eight resignations. Not only has the chamber not flipped in a presidential election since 1952, but also Democrats enjoy a 6.7 percent lead on the congressional generic ballot. And as New York’s Ed Kilgore notes:
Members of Congress often anticipate a bad year before it materializes (much like animals sensing an approaching storm), so a wave of retirements is almost always a bad sign for the party experiencing it. In 2018, 26 House Republicans headed for the exits (not counting those running for higher office), the fifth-largest total since 1974, which contributed to the Democrats’ big year.
Meanwhile, Republican strategists are preparing for another round of resignations after the August recess, when representatives check in with their families and see if the $174,000 paycheck is worth it. “There are going to be a lot more [retirements] to come,” one consultant who works for House Republicans told The Hill. “Between people finding themselves having to actually work hard for the first time in their long, lazy careers and members who came in in the majority and now hate life in the minority, it’s just getting started.”