Will Hurd, a retired CIA officer and former Texas congressman, announced Thursday that he is joining the race for the Republican presidential nomination, launching a long-shot bid as a moderate alternative to GOP hard-liners.
"This morning, I filed to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States," Hurd announced on "CBS Mornings."
"These are the issues we should be talking about," Hurd said. "And to be frank, I'm pissed that we're not talking about these things."
Hurd told CBS that if he is elected president, he would not pardon Trump — a question other GOP candidates have largely dodged — and referred specifically to the classified documents case against Trump.
"The fact that Donald Trump willingly kept that material and wants to be the leader of the free world is unacceptable to me," Hurd said. If it is proven true, he added, Trump's alleged behavior "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."
Asked how he could beat Trump in an already crowded GOP field, Hurd argued that “too many candidates are afraid of Donald Trump” and said he is the candidate best positioned to unite what he described as a fissured Republican Party.
Hurd also cited his past election wins, noting that most had doubted he could beat a well-funded Republican in his predominantly Latino district before he clinched victory in a runoff.
Hurd attributed his 2014 win to "showing up to places where people don't expect you to talk about the things they care about." That is the path to victory, he said, and "it's not easy, but it's something that we have to do."
J. Miles Coleman of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics said Hurd's bipartisan record is likely to hurt him in the Republican primary campaign.
“He’d be a very formidable general election candidate," Coleman said, "which is part of the reason why I suspect he’s going to have a hard time getting the nomination.”
Hurd was first elected to the House in 2014, when he unseated a Democrat to become the representative of a large area of the southwestern Texas border. He quickly established himself as a moderate in the party, though he aligned himself with the more conservative wing in his criticism of the FBI’s handling of an investigation into classified information Hillary Clinton had sent over a private email server when she was the secretary of state.
In recent weeks, his campaign has taken shape. He recently visited New Hampshire to meet with voters, and he has lodged attacks against the Republican front-runners. In a mid-May appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he blamed Trump for Republican losses in the 2022 midterm elections and accused him of “looking backwards” instead of “to the future.”
Hurd said a 2024 battle between Trump and President Joe Biden would be the “rematch from hell,” claiming that a majority of Americans would prefer other candidates.
“Whether you’re in ruby-red towns or deep-blue cities, people care about putting food on the table, a roof over their head and making sure the people they love are healthy, happy and safe," he said.
Hurd has cast himself as a moderate Republican who can appeal to voters across the political spectrum. He recently wrote an article calling himself a "firearm-owning Republican" and advocating for new gun laws. He has emphasized aiding Ukraine in defending itself against Russian forces and addressing the rise of artificial intelligence and its national security implications. He is on the board of directors of OpenAI, the startup that created ChatGPT.
Hurd, the former representative of a border district, has also made immigration a focal point of his nascent campaign. In a recent appearance on CNN, he called for a long-term plan to streamline legal immigration, increase deportations of people who come to the country illegally and provide economic aid to Latin America to discourage people from leaving their countries.
“The crisis that we’re dealing with now began under Donald Trump," he said. “It’s gotten significantly worse under the Biden administration.”
Matt Terrill, the managing partner at Firehouse Strategies — a public affairs firm founded by Republican strategists — said that even long-shot candidates have chances if they can gain momentum in states such as Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, which have early caucuses or primaries.
“It’s the voters in these early primary states, the delegates, they’re going to be the ones who eventually decide this nomination," he said. Candidates might be able to win over those voters by demonstrating how they can attract swing voters in a general election.
“Republican voters want to win," Terrill said.