SAN ANTONIO –U.S. Rep. Will Hurd claimed victory in his re-election bid Tuesday night, becoming the first incumbent to hold onto the Texas 23rd District in eight years.
“We won this thing because of y’alls hard work,” Hurd, a Republican, said shortly after midnight at his campaign’s official watch party on Hotel Eilon in San Antonio, his hometown. “We won because y’all believed that we could win. We won because y’all worked harder, because y’all cared, because this district recognizes a lot more work needs to be done.”
Hurd claimed victory over an old rival for the second time, Democratic former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego in the state’s only competitive federal district on Tuesday night, on the heels of Donald Trump’s apparent election to the presidency.
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In his remarks delivered around 1 a.m., Gallego said he called Hurd to congratulate him – ending a bitter campaign on what appeared to be a collegial note.
Gallego acknowledged the devastation his party faced nationally.
“There is a lot of concern and trepidation,” he said, alluding to the likely ascension of Trump to the White House.
“One thing I’ve learned: We are a resilient nation,” Gallego continued. “The sun rises tomorrow. It’s a new day. And we begin putting one foot in front of the other as we have every other day for generations’ and generations’ past and as I know we will for generations to come.”
Hurd’s win was one of many blows to the Democratic party nationwide – he was considered one of the most vulnerable House Republicans and among the easiest pick ups for the Democrsts.
The conventional wisdom was that Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric could be an albatross around Hurd’s neck and Gallego staked his entire campaign around tying Hurd to Trump.
Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer, repudiated his party’s nominee upon the release of a vulgar video showing Trump boasting about groping women.
Trump, however, outperformed expectations nationally and appeared to help Hurd with at least some voters in the district.
“I voted for Donald Trump because I think he’s good for America,” said Daniel Arevalo, a salesman voting Tuesday at McCollum High School in San Antonio. “I don’t think Hillary has any business-sense and he does and in my opinion he’ll do better for us than she will. I voted for Will Hurd just for the Republican ticket.”
Hurd ran one of the best executed and funded Congressional campaigns the state has ever seen. The hope among some Texas Republicans is that he can hold onto the seat long enough and build enough constituent loyalty that he can cease the flip flop nature of the district until the next round of redistricting.
Hurd’s win bolsters U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s standing among House Republicans. Ryan was a strong supporter of Hurd’s re-election, and Hurd’s presence in the GOP conference eases Ryan’s path to a second term as the House GOP leader.
Just like every cycle, the 23rd Congressional District is all-but-certain to be a top target for the opposition.
But the environment will have changed from the last two midterms. Over the last eight years, Republicans did well in those cycles, thanks to a combination of lower voter turnout and as a backlash to the Obama administration.
Prior to serving in Congress, Gallego was a longtime member of the Texas House. Once in Washington, he became a sentimental favorite among House Democrats, as senior members recruited him to run against Hurd just days after his 2014 loss. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signaled throughout the 2016 cycle that winning this seat was a top priority of her political agenda.