This election, it has become apparent Texas Republicans are running away from debates almost as if these were the plague. From Greg Abbott refusing to debate Wendy Davis in additional locations across the state to Dan Patrick refusing a similar proposal by Leticia Van de Putte — it seems GOP candidates are too afraid to debate Texas Democrats in front of voters this election. Debates make a big difference in competitive races where candidates need to distinguish themselves, their records, and their points of views to voters.
For Republicans and Democrats alike, the Texas 23rd congressional district is seen as the only truly competitive race either party could win this November. The district is currently represented by first-term, incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). Gallego is a former Texas state representative that earlier represented a portion of his current congressional district seat in the Legislature. The same year Gallego beat his then-incumbent Republican opponent, former Rep. Quico Canseco, district voters voted in favor of Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by a margin of 51-48 percent. Canseco was also a freshman incumbent when Gallego beat him in 2012.
Now, Gallego faces Republican candidate Will Hurd. Hurd is a former Central Intelligence Agency agent that managed to beat Canseco during the Republican primaries to win the party’s nomination this election. It seems even Republican district voters weren’t content with Canseco, and were willing to nominate a different candidate this time around.
This is why the district is so competitive — it could go to either party’s candidate.
Republicans in Congress know this, and have not been shy in pumping a lot of money into the race, attempting to play on Hurd’s background in national security during Hurd’s time with the CIA. Republicans claim Gallego does not have the foreign policy experience needed to present CD-23, which spans over 800 miles along the Texas-Mexico border.
“This district, which Mitt Romney won, is definitely seen as a huge pick-up opportunity for us,” said Katie Prill, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “The race is very winnable for Republicans.”
With such a strong Republican presence in CD-23, one would think Hurd would agree and push for as much exposure to voters as possible this election. So that this way, Hurd has the opportunity to articulate his position on key issues to voters, given the fact that he holds no record as an elected offical. Yet, Hurd has instead seemingly chosen to follow the lead of many other Texas Republican officials when it comes to debates — run away from them, and ignore any requests by Democrats.
Perhaps Republicans are just too afraid to defend their records and positions in front of voters.
Despite having a history of being a swing-district, almost 70% of voters in CD-23 are Latinos, a demographic of voters that tend to gravitate towards Democratic positions and ideals.
Hurd may simply not want to debate because he’s attempting to gain support from the more conservative voters in CD-23, not the general Latino voting population. Gallego, who is Latino, is more personally aware of issues that matter to our community and has the record to prove it.
“They’re passionate about making sure that kids have an education,” said Gallego. “They care about jobs, about the economy. They want to work their way into the middle class and beyond.”
Hurd is in favor of a massive budget cut that would slash low-income education programs. These educational programs are deeply important for Latinos of low-income backgrounds to receive an education, and better the lives of themselves and their families. The massive budget cut Hurd supports would also slash deep into Social Security and Medicare, programs that are of equal importance to Latinos.
If Republicans truly want Latinos to vote for them in elections, then the Republican Party has to be willing to compromise on issues that are important to others, not be driven by conservative voters only concerned about “securing the border.” A platform Republicans like Hurd are running on.
Gallego and his campaign have called out Hurd on his and other Republicans’ hypocrisy, saying they care about Latino voters yet are actively fighting to make our lives more difficult. Slashing away at programs vital to the community. Gallego wants to inform Latino voters of this reality, sending them a message that our community’s future success depends on our votes.
Check out a video below by Gallego’s campaign criticizing Hurd and Republicans for wanting to defund Latino’s opportunity to education:
Follow Omar on Twitter at @AraizaTX.