For this week’s episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we interviewed Rep. Will Hurd of Texas’s 23rd Congressional District. And as you’ll hear in the podcast and read in selected excerpts below, we covered a lot of ground, including whether Hurd will vote for President Trump in November.
The transcript below has been lightly edited.
On whether Hurd will vote for Trump:
Galen Druke: I want to talk about all that strategy and what the future of the party looks like. But are you going to vote for Trump this fall?
Will Hurd: Like a lot of Americans, I wish I had different options on the ballot. And my plan is always to support a Republican and we’re going to be making those decisions over the next 98 days.
GD: So you’re going to decide whether or not to vote for him over the next 98 days?
WH: That is how I always approach my election. I’m just like everybody else.
GD: Well, you previously said that you will vote for Trump this fall. So I’m just wondering if you’re hesitant a little bit now?
WH: I think that’s accurate.
Your polling is showing that. I’m like everybody else. I don’t want to vote for a Joe Biden because in the end, some of the policies, I think that a unified Democratic Party is going to pass … would be tough for the country, and things that I don’t support, and haven’t supported during my time in Congress. And as somebody who’s represented a large, competitive district, I know something about competitive districts and what needs to be done in order to win.
GD: I understand that desire not to vote for Joe Biden, but I guess more specifically on whether or not you’ll vote for Trump, what could change your mind in the next 98 days that would make you view him and his presidency differently than what he’s shown us so far?
WH: It’s a good question and who knows. I don’t think a year ago we would have been thinking about a global pandemic that would have impacted the entire world and brought the world economy to a standstill. And so who knows what can happen over these next few weeks.
But in the end, what I think that I’ve been trying to preach to my colleagues is that we have to change as a Republican Party. We have to start appealing to broader groups of people. And if we don’t, and also if the Republican Party doesn’t start looking like America, we’re not going to have a Republican Party in America.
GD: Everything you’re saying here makes it sound like you aren’t voting for Trump. Is that the case?
WH: As I said, I don’t like either one of my choices. And in the end, we’re going to evaluate this over the next 90 days, or 96 days.
On delaying the election:
GD: President Trump suggested delaying the presidential election, which Congress has the power to do, your branch of government. Do you support delaying the election?
WH: We are not an authoritarian government where the head of state gets to decide on a whim when an election happens. So no, this is Congress’s role, as you said. It should go forward as has been established. And ultimately, look, I’m of the opinion that we should be increasing the ways for people to vote, right, the more people that vote, the better off it is. And this is something that I’ve been able to prove, during my time in Congress, that if you take a message to more people, you can get it to resonate with more people and we shouldn’t be afraid.
On the U.S. response to COVID-19:
GD: Overall, do you think the country is doing a good job combating the pandemic?
WH: No. We have increasing death rates, right? We have the most number of people that are dealing with this right? I think the impact it’s had on the United States of America versus other countries is still … we’re dealing with one of the worst cases. We’re having debates on whether you should be wearing a mask or not. Wear a mask! Right? A mask is to protect yourself but also to protect the people around you. So why are we debating that? This debate and fights around whether school should open or not — we should be talking about, ‘how do we work together in order to exceed CDC guidelines on opening schools?’, not whether or not it should happen.
And so yeah, there are all kinds of problems. But I’m always trying to work with these folks to deal with the problem as it is right now. I know in Texas, a third of the deaths of coronavirus have been in nursing homes. That’s outrageous. And then also in prisons. And so if we couldn’t handle this in nursing homes or in prisons, how are we going to be handling it in an educational environment where it is even more chaotic than those other places? So yeah, we have a long way to go.”
On the future of the Republican party:
GD: Let’s talk about where the Republican Party is headed. You said that the Republican Party needs to look more like America. And you know, right now, it doesn’t. You’re the only Black lawmaker on the Republican side in the House. Why do you think there are so few Black lawmakers in the Republican caucus in the house?
WH: Everybody asked me when I first got elected, how does a Black Republican represent a 71 percent Latino district? And I say it’s because you know, I work hard and I show up to communities that had never seen a Republican show up, and you do that multiple times. If you’re showing up 90 days before an election, that’s called pandering.
You have to be in those communities. Showing up is half the battle. And unfortunately, I think over time, professional political consultants talk about focusing on your likely “x voter” — whether that’s a Republican primary voter or Democratic primary voter — rather than trying to grow and appeal to a broader group of people. It’s hard.
GD: Do you think that part of the reason has to do with Republicans actively appealing to a white identity?
WH: Look, I think when you look at a person like a Steve King — and you know Steve King losing his primary is ultimately a good thing — but when you know folks that that have been elected as a Republican that say racist or misogynistic or homophobic things, that hurts all of us that identify with with being a Republican.
… But what I found is that’s not everybody. But yeah, over time, have those things been said? Yes. And Does that hurt? Yes. And that’s why we have to speak out when those things do happen.