Republicans are growing more pessimistic about their odds of taking back the House majority after the surprise news Thursday that Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Obama legacy under spotlight after Detroit debates The Hill’s Morning Report: More bad news for House Republicans Will Hurd, only black Republican in House, retiring MORE (Texas), the only African American GOP lawmaker in the House, is retiring.
Hurd is the sixth House Republican and the third from the critical state of Texas to announce their departures, dampening GOP hopes for 2020.
Republicans would need to gain either 18 or 19 seats to win back the House majority. The precise total depends on the outcome of a race for a North Carolina district.
Now they will also have to hold on to Hurd’s district, which the Cook Political Report quickly moved from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.”
It’s likely to be an uphill climb, and at a minimum will mean spending more money to win an open seat.
Hurd is the third Republican just from Texas to announce his retirement, following fellow Reps. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayWill Hurd, only black Republican in House, retiring Texas GOP lawmaker Conaway announces retirement Texas GOP Rep. Conaway won’t seek reelection: report MORE and Pete OlsonPeter (Pete) Graham OlsonThe Hill’s Morning Report: More bad news for House Republicans Will Hurd, only black Republican in House, retiring Texas GOP lawmaker Conaway announces retirement MORE.
“These retirements are costing Republicans real money next fall,” said one GOP strategist, explaining the party will have to shift money to the district to save it.
Hurd held onto his seat by less than one percentage point during the 2018 midterms.
One GOP House member said the open seats are adding to the GOP’s challenge in winning back the House.
“It just requires a strong candidate and in some additional resources, frankly, to build name ID and, and to deal with that, because you aren’t the incumbent — that does make it harder to hold the seat, which is why you’re seeing from the shift in the Cook Political Report and some of those,” the member said.
“The question is, can we gather the additional resources, raise the additional funds necessary to support that while also continuing the efforts to win the majority,” the member said. “History is not kind on this.”
Some Republicans downplayed the importance of Hurd’s retirement, while acknowledging it was bad news.
“Obviously no one likes to see thoughtful members retire but only retirement of members in swing districts have a material impact on which party has the majority,” said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsComey fires back at Meadows amid report he won’t be prosecuted Hillicon Valley: Pentagon chief orders probe into ‘war cloud’ contract | Oversight Republicans want briefings from Capital One, Amazon on breach | Facebook removes Saudi-tied disinformation campaign | Senate confirms Trump’s first chief technology officer Oversight Republicans demand answers on Capital One data breach MORE (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
He said the GOP should be optimistic about its chances of winning back the House if Democrats make a liberal candidate their presidential nominee against President TrumpDonald John TrumpKentucky miners’ struggle is that of many working Americans Cummings releases statement on attempted break-in after Trump attacks PhRMA top lobbyist to leave post MORE.
“Based on Democratic debate performances and the highly partisan and overtly political hearings conducted by the House majority, Republicans have reason to be optimistic,” he said.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams said retirements are inevitable, and the GOP’s campaign arm is ready for a 2020 fight.
“It’s unfortunate to lose very talented folks, like Will Hurd, like Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyTexas GOP lawmaker Conaway announces retirement Texas GOP Rep. Conaway won’t seek reelection: report House GOP fears retirement wave will lead to tsunami MORE, the list goes on — but that’s part of life,” McAdams said. “And I think we are doing a great job on the recruitment front. I mean, every race is competitive, but you’ve got to do different things for different places. And I think there’s going to be a fight [in Hurd’s district] for sure. But it’s not a proven conclusion that the seat is going to be a Democratic seat.”
Other Republicans, speaking on background to give a candid account of the 2020 race for the House, said retirements like Hurd’s are difficult because they effectively raise the bar on the number of seats the GOP will need to gain in 2020.
It’s easier to survive a retirement in a relatively safe district, one Republican said, than in Hurd’s district.
“When [former Rep. Jed] Henserling (R-Texas) retires or when Mike Conaway retires that’s fine, that’s normal turnover, but when Pete Olson or Will Hurd retire, especially Will Hurd that’s very different,” the source told The Hill.
Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democrat defeated by Hurd last year, is running again in 2020 and has already raised campaign funds and broadened her name recognition.
“They need to find someone yesterday,” the source said of Republicans.
Democrats are expected to inject money into the race to win Hurd’s seat. It’s part of a broad effort to win seats in Texas. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced earlier this year it was opening a Texas office.
“While [NRCC] Chairman [Tom] Emmer (R-Minn.) and Leader [Kevin] McCarthy (R-Calif.) desperately beg their colleagues not to retire, Democrats are raising the resources we need to protect and expand this majority,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Obama legacy under spotlight after Detroit debates Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations Democrats worry diversity furor could spill into 2020 election MORE (D-Ill.) said in a statement.
The DCCC had been the subject of negative headlines earlier this week after a number of staff members resigned under calls from lawmakers for more diversity in the organization.
Some Republicans pointed to that as a disadvantage for Democrats in the coming race.
“Anytime you don’t have your strategic vision laid out and the people in place to execute it, that’s a real tough disadvantage for them,” one Texas Republican strategist told The Hill.
But while the week began with evidence of Democratic division, it ended with a retirement that could cost Republicans a swing district, potentially making the climb to a majority a seat steeper.