DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The only black Republican serving in the U.S. House of Representatives has announced that he is not running for re-election in 2020. Congressman Will Hurd represents a key swing district on the Texas-Mexico border. And his announcement Thursday evening is considered a setback for the GOP, which is struggling with the issue of race and also a lack of diversity within its ranks. Want to bring in NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis to talk about this.
Good morning, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So did you and others see this coming?
DAVIS: Will Hurd comes as a surprise. It was described to me by one Republican strategist as a gut punch. As you said, he's the only black Republican in the House, so that certainly gives him some element of notoriety. But he was much more than that. He was seen as a rising star in the party. He was young. He's only 41 years old. He comes from a rather impressive background. He was an undercover operative for the CIA, which gave him a certain amount of credibility inside the House on issues of national security and foreign policy.
And he'd only served three terms. He was first elected in 2014. He was - he survived the 2018 Democratic wave, and he was someone that I think a lot of Republicans were looking to as someone who could rise up in the ranks. Instead, he said in his statement, he intends to look for work now in the private sector working at the intersection between technology and national security.
GREENE: Well, I want to note the timing. I mean, this announcement comes at the end of two weeks of President Trump, you know, from the same Republican Party, sending these incendiary tweets and this rhetoric. I mean, did Hurd mention in his resignation anything about that or whether he might even leave the party?
DAVIS: Not directly, no. I mean, he made clear he plans to stay involved in the Republican Party. He said he would still continue to work to grow a GOP that, quote, "looks like America." He has been one of the most regular, consistent voices that have been critical of the president inside the party. He has been a critic of the border wall. You know, his Texas district takes hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
GREENE: It's right there, yeah.
DAVIS: It's right there. It's 71% Hispanic. He's one of the few Republicans representing a minority-majority district. He was a critic of the president for not being stronger against Russian interference in the elections. And just recently, he did vote with Democrats. He was one of just four Republicans who voted with Democrats to rebuke the president for his racist tweets. So he was certainly unique in a lot of that regard, and I think that's part of the reason why his exit, I think, is being interpreted as a bad sign for the Republican Party.
GREENE: Well, after that vote that you mentioned to rebuke the president, Congressman Hurd was on "Meet The Press" trying to make a case for how his party needs to broaden itself beyond white men. Let's give a listen here.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")
WILL HURD: I think the Republican Party should be a broad party. I shouldn't be the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives.
CHUCK TODD: You had a pretty...
GREENE: Now there won't be an African American Republican in the House of Representatives if he's not running, I mean, depending on how the election goes, of course. I mean, the - how troubling is this for Republicans?
DAVIS: It's incredibly troubling. It's also an ominous sign, I think, for the party's prospects of trying to win back the House in 2020. His seat was a classic swing seat. He's probably the only Republican that could hold on to that seat for Democrats. Nonpartisan election analysts have already ranked it as favoring Democrats in the next election.
And this isn't just about minorities. He's part of a wave of retirements we've seen recently. There's been nine Republican retirements this year, the sixth in the last week alone. And a couple of them are also women. Two of those retirements come from women. There's only 13 women currently serving in the House Republican ranks right now. So we are seeing fewer women and fewer minorities, and that's not a healthy sign for a party that wants to grow into the future.
GREENE: And maybe less compromise. Wasn't he known to work across the aisle with Democrats, something that's becoming much more rare these days?
DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, he - stylistically, he was just a nice guy. He was good friends with Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman. He was known for being someone people enjoyed working with, for being substantive and not for embracing the sort of polarized, name-calling techniques of the president. And that's definitely changing.
GREENE: NPR's Susan Davis.
Sue, thanks as always.
DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.