Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune
AUSTIN — The whistleblower complaint that has roiled the White House and prompted the U.S. House of Representatives to launch an impeachment inquiry contains “disturbing allegations” about President Donald Trump’s conduct that should be investigated, retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes) said Thursday.
But he also said talk of impeachment is premature.
“This is not kicking off someone from ‘Survivor,'” Hurd said. “This is a serious process that we need to deliberate on, and we need to have the right folks come in.”
During a more-than-hour-long keynote conversation at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Thursday, Hurd spoke about the impeachment inquiry, his future in politics, and the evolution of the Republican party.
Hurd is the only Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee thus far to call for an investigation into the whistleblower’s claims.
“There are a lot of elements in there that I think require follow up,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of elements in there that are concerning.”
The third-term congressman announced his retirement in August effective January 2021. His impending departure comes amid a flurry of retirements in the GOP, including a handful of federal lawmakers from Texas.
“The story of this election cycle is the story of Republicans deciding whether to fight or flee the hotness politics of Congress, the White House, and Washington,” said Evan Smith, Texas Tribune publisher, in his introduction of Hurd on Thursday. “Whether to enable a silent acquiescence to the new normal or whether to conclude that there are better ways to serve. Will Hurd is the exemplar of that choice.”
While speaking with Smith, Hurd explained his reasons for leaving office, stating he’s eager to return to working on the convergence of technology and national security. Hurd said following his retirement announcement he intends to remain in politics in a role supporting the GOP’s aim of electing diverse conservatives that reflect the changing social landscape of the country. Hurd is the House’s only black member of the Republican caucus.
Smith asked Hurd if he’d contemplate a run for the presidency in 2024. The congressman didn’t rule it out.
“If I’m the only person that’s still talking about these things,” said Hurd, “and I’m put in a position in order to evaluate that, then I will do what I’ve always done when I’ve had the opportunity to serve my country, I will think about it.”
Hurd last November narrowly eluded a challenge from Gina Ortiz Jones, a political upstart who garnered an impressive fundraising haul. The race came down to the last few counties and Hurd won by less than 1,000 votes.
The meandering District 23, which spans west from San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso, has long been considered the toughest Texas seat for Republicans to defend. Carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, the district swung from party-to-party before Hurd was elected in 2014.
But Hurd has started to stray from the Republican orthodoxy. During the last Congress, Hurd voted in line with President Trump’s position about 95 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. In the current Congress, Hurd has voted with the president only 54.3 percent of the time, the lowest among House Republicans. In addition to his voting record, Hurd has publically opposed Trump on a number of issues, including relations with Russia and the border wall. Because of these maverick qualities, Texas Monthly called Hurd a “party of one” in a cover story earlier this year.
“They kind of were right,” Smith said. Hurd disagreed.
“Some other elected officials may not match my voting record, but there are a lot of people that I represent that believe in the things that I have been doing,” he said.
Hurd, who said he believes Texas will be in play come the 2020 election, was not reading the tea leaves when he made the decision to step down after serving his third term. He believes he would have won a fourth term. Hurd insisted he could be more effective helping grow the GOP from the outside.
In an increasingly divided country, voters want national politics to evolve beyond the partisan antagonism, Hurd said.
“What I have learned about representing a 50/50 [Republican and Democrat] district is that way more unites us than divides,” he said. “People are craving for us to be able to work together.”