The Most Competitive Congressional Race in Texas is Heating Up

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While most media outlets spent this Super Tuesday focusing on the presidential race, the primary election also marked the kickoff for some very important down-ballot races across the state. Chief among these is the race for CD-23, where former Rep. Pete Gallego has returned to challenge Republican incumbent Will Hurd.

Will Hurd’s tenure as congressman has been fairly unremarkable thus far, with the only notable events being the many times’s he’s voted against services for his own district. Though his district is home to over 46,000 veterans, last summer he voted for two measures disrespecting the armed forces– in favor of forbid DREAMers from serving in the military, and opposing a measure that would have provided a pay raise to members of the uniformed services. More egregiously, he followed this vote with a vote to end Amtrak service to Alpine and Big Bend, voting to eliminate funding for a train line that serves thousands of his constituents.

With a record like that, it’s no wonder that Pete Gallego is running to replace “One-Term Wonder” Will Hurd. Now, new voter turnout data that has emerged from Super Tuesday is showing that Gallego has a strong chance of defeating Hurd.

While statewide turnout on Tuesday favored the GOP (2.8 million Republicans voted in the primary, while only 1.4 million Democrats did), CD-23 actually saw the opposite trend. In CD-23, over 3,000 more people voted in the Democratic primary than the Republican primary.

What’s more, there was a massive drop-off on the Republican side from the top to the bottom of the ballot. Nearly 5,700 voters cast their vote in the Republican primary for president, went down the ballot, and opted out of voting for Will Hurd. Thus, although only there were only 3,000 more votes cast on the Democratic side than the Republican, Pete Gallego actually received over 6,000 more votes than Will Hurd on Tuesday night.

Hurd’s strategy for winning this election had centered around exciting his Republican base and motivating them to go out and vote for him. The Super Tuesday results certainly call that strategy into question. From these results, it seems like the CD-23 Republicans’ attitude toward Hurd can be captured in one word: “Meh.”

The primary results also bode well for the November election. Hurd was able to win in 2014 because it was a wave election that went overwhelmingly in favor of Republicans. He received very little crossover support from anyone who wasn’t part of his own party. In fact, Hurd underperformed Greg Abbott, the candidate at the top of the ballot, by 8 percentage points. Gallego, on the other hand, outperformed Wendy Davis by 6 points. This indicates that Gallego was able to cross over and receive support from those who chose not to vote for Davis, while Hurd couldn’t even get all of the voters who supported Greg Abbott to finish reading their ballots and cast a vote in his favor. This bodes well for 2016, an election year with even higher turnout, where Gallego will likely be able to expand his crossover appeal.

In a press statement, Gallego’s spokesperson Anthony Guttierez summed up the race thusly:

“Pete Gallego is off and running in the most competitive race in Texas while Rep. Hurd is just looking around trying to figure out what direction to go in.

It’s clear from his voting record that Congressman Hurd’s plan for 2016 was to go all-in with his Republican base and bet that base support could carry him to victory. Not only did that plan fail to generate excitement in his primary but going forward it’s going to prevent him from being able to generate any crossover support.

For Congressman Hurd – there’s no Republican excitement, no hope of crossover support and the only thing the possible GOP presidential nominees offer is whatever the opposite of coattails are.

Pete has a motivated base and massive crossover appeal – he could not be better positioned to retake this seat in November and restore real leadership to TX23.”

We won’t know for certain until November, but right now, it is looking increasingly likely that Will Hurd will remain a “One-Term Wonder” indeed.

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About Author

Katie Singh

Katie grew up in Austin and has been involved in Texas politics since 2004. She has been a part of several campaigns, from state house races to working at President Obama's campaign headquarters in 2012. She loves public policy, public health, and tacos. Katie tweets from @kasingh19.

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