It is now a viral legend on the internet. After snow disrupted the plane, former Republican Rep. Will Hurd and neighboring Democrat Beto O’Rourke boarded a rented Chevrolet Impala and embarked on a transcontinental road trip from their home state of Texas to Washington.
Livestreaming what they called a “bipartisan town hall” to millions of Americans on Facebook and Twitter, livestreaming hours of policy debates on health care, Willie Nelson singing, Donut Run and more, the duo captured national attention as the American public watched. develop friendshipeven if they disagree.
More than six years later, on a sunny July day, Mr. Hurd was walking the streets again, this time as a long-term, not a long-term, presidential candidate, with moderate and bipartisan tendencies at odds with the current party climate.
Driving through New Hampshire’s tree-lined highways in a rented gray SUV, he was once again in the spotlight in the race for the Republican nomination led by the party’s loudest, most partisan voice.
“Has my opinion changed that we are more united than divided? No,” Mr. Hurd said, recalling lessons learned from his trip with Mr. O’Rourke. “People were craving something different. They were craving it.”
Hurd, 45, wants to show voters that he’s bringing something different to the campaign. A black Republican who has represented Latino-majority constituencies and wants to broaden his party’s appeal, he’s not, as he puts it, “banning books” or “harassing friends in the LGBTQ community.”
That’s difficult in a primary that has so far been dominated by the culture wars issue, which has focused on the front-runners, and legal issues surrounding former President Donald J. Trump.
The hardest road awaits Mr. Hurd. He has been campaigning for just over a month and has lagged his rivals in terms of staffing, visibility and fundraising.According to the latest quarterly report, he just $245,000 with cash on hand.
he may not be qualified First Republican Preliminary Debate The measure would require candidates to gather at least 40,000 unique donors and at least 1% voter support in three approved polls.
Even if he meets these requirements, he may not be able to take the stage for debate. Fulfill One of the most controversial provisions of the Republican National Committee is that candidates will eventually sign a pledge to endorse the party’s candidate. Not having a seat at the table means losing one of the most important ways to get attention in the primary.
At a pit stop outside Manchester, Hurd said he had no problem defending another Republican. But he said he doesn’t support Trump. “I’m not going to lie to get the mic,” Mr. Hurd said over a Philadelphia cheesesteak and salty fries.
Back on tour, Hurd did not take the challenge lightly. In interviews, town halls, political events, etc., he often readily refers to himself as a “dark horse” or “upstart,” carefully targeting the kinds of voters who might be most tolerant of his background and message that the data suggests. He added that those voters include a mix of Republicans, independents and moderates who are fed up with the toxicity of politics, reject Trump and want someone with a vision for the future of the Republican Party. Proving that a group of people actually exist as a coherent base of support will be the ultimate test of his candidacy.
While Hurd’s charisma and enthusiasm for quirky policies comes through in one-on-one conversations, it remains to be seen how well his expertise translates to stumps. After a rocky start to the 2024 Presidential Candidate Lecture Series at Dartmouth College, where he arrived that afternoon, the audience of more than 50 seemed to gradually warm up to Mr. Hurd.
“We are in a race. The Chinese government is trying to overtake us as a global superpower,” Hurd said, warning that AI could cause unemployment but could also help close the education gap.
Alice Warbell, a 78-year-old retired nurse who drove from Norwich, Vermont, said in the audience that she saw Heard as an “upstart” and admired her courage in refusing to sign the debate pledge.
But when Mr. Hurd finished speaking, she seemed unconvinced he had a path to the presidency. She said she plans to vote for President Biden in 2024.
“Biden should appoint him as Technology Czar or AI Czar or Minister of Technology,” she added.
Later, at a dinner where Heard spoke to a small group of students, Josh Paul, a 21-year-old conservative government major, said he wasn’t sure Texas Republicans could win, but he was willing to help Heard take on the challenge. Mr. Hurd’s rejection of Mr. Trump was so refreshing that he sought out campaign workers willing to sign up as volunteers.
Referring to Trump and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, Paul said, “If conservatism is all about oaths and fidelity to the Constitution, I don’t understand how you can stand by and watch this man lie, lie, lie, and incite riots.”
For three terms, Hurd represented a vast majority-Hispanic region, stretching from one of the nation’s most competitive congressional districts, El Paso on the western edge of Texas, to San Antonio along the country’s southwestern border.The only black Republican in the House of Representatives when he announced his retirement In August 2019, Hurd said one of the reasons he was leaving Congress was to help diversify the party’s membership.
Mr. Hurd has been a harsh and consistent critic of Mr. Trump, but he has remained a staunch Republican with conservative values. He told students at Dartmouth College that he was prepared to sign a clause banning abortions for 15 weeks, except in specific cases such as rape and incest. Like many of the Republican Party’s rivals of color, he walks a fine line between denying the party’s existence. racist system In America, while describing a situation that seems to fit the definition.
When his parents first arrived in San Antonio while traveling through New Hampshire, he said they had to live in the only area where an interracial couple could buy a home. “There are still some communities that are not given equal opportunity,” he said. But “I don’t know if you can call it systemic racism. I wouldn’t call it that.”
Talia Floras, 60, district retail manager and undecided Democrat, said Friday at St. Anselm College’s town hall in Goffstown that her only concern for Hurd was her support for the abortion ban. Still, she credited him for showing a willingness to listen to dissenting voices and not using terms like “woke mob” and “radical left.”
Marie Mulroy, 75, a former public health worker and independent raised by a Republican mother and a Democrat father, said she donated to Heard because Heard was caring, liked working across the aisle, and had a “better understanding of the world and where we were going in the future.”
Every good political argument “needs a thesis, an antithesis, a synthesis. But you can’t synthesize it anymore,” she says. “And this is where the voters are. Voters are sitting in the plenary session.”