By Jim Ellis
Aug. 5, 2019 — The House Republican retirements keep coming. Now, three-term Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) announced late last week that he will not seek re-election, risking the truest swing seat in the Texas delegation. Hurd, a former CIA officer, says he wants to leave the House “to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”The Lone Star State’s 23rd District stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, a distance of some 550 miles, making this one of the largest CDs in the United States that does not encompass an entire state. The 23rd also shares approximately 800 miles of the US-Mexico border, the largest of any congressional district.
TX-23 contains 26 counties and parts of three others, but just about 50 percent of the people live either in Bexar (San Antonio) or El Paso Counties. The seat’s voting history is as politically tight as its area is expansive. Hillary Clinton carried the district over President Trump, 50-46%, but Mitt Romney slipped past President Obama, 51-48 percent.
Rep. Hurd has represented the district for three terms but has never reached 50 percent in his trio of victories. Though he has won three times, his average vote percentage is 49.1 percent. In 2018, against Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones, Rep. Hurd won the second closest raw vote victory of any Republican in the House, a 926-vote win. This seat will now likely become the top Democratic conversion target in the 2020 election cycle.
Prior to Rep. Hurd winning here in 2014, the district had flipped between the two parties since Democrat Ciro Rodriguez defeated seven-term veteran Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla in 2006. A subsequent court order after the state legislature drew new districts in 2003 changed significant parts of this seat, making it more Democratic.
After being re-elected in 2008, Rep. Rodriguez then lost in 2010 to Republican Quico Conseco, who then lost to Democrat Pete Gallego in 2012, who then lost to Hurd in 2014. From 2010-2018, the top winning percentage was Gallego’s 50.3 percent in 2012. Therefore, the 23rd has performed as the most evenly split district in the country during the current decade.
The citizen voting age population breaks into two racial demographic sectors, Hispanic (62.0 percent) and non-Hispanic white (31.8 percent). It is the most Hispanic district in the US that consistently elects a Republican candidate.
Hurd is the fourth Texas Republican in the past week to announce that he will not be on the ballot in the 2020 election. Other retirements are coming from Reps. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) and Mike Conaway (R-Midland), while Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) has been nominated to replace outgoing National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and will resign his seat upon confirmation. In the Ratcliffe instance, his 4th District will likely go to a mid-term special election while all the others will serve the balance of the current term.
Nationally, the Hurd move creates 16 open House seats, 13 of which are Republican held. TX-23 is the sixth of these seats that will be competitive in the next general election and likely becomes the most hotly contested of all.
The 2018 Democratic nominee, former US Trade Office staff member and Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, had already announced that she would seek a re-match with Rep. Hurd. She had drawn Democratic opposition from three individuals, but the party primary was, and probably still will be, Jones’ to lose.
Hurd had also drawn Republican primary opposition. Dentist Alma Arredondo-Lynch is returning for another run. She challenged him in 2018 but lost 80-20 percent. Also announced for 2020 is businessman and retired Air Force officer Raul Reyes. We can assume that more Republicans, and possibly more Democrats, will soon step forward to declare their candidacies.