Originally appeared April 2, 2015 b
WASHINGTON – A rematch is on in a west Texas congressional district that has gone back and forth between the parties in the past three elections.
Former congressman Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine, announced Thursday that he will run in 2016 to reclaim the U.S House seat he lost in November by 2,500 votes to San Antonio Republican Will Hurd.
“Taking on another campaign when I have a young son at home is not easy, but Congress is more broken than ever,” Gallego said in a statement.
Accusing Hurd of being “part of the problem,” Gallego vowed to be less partisan. “I have proven myself to be a leader who can get things done by working well with both Republicans and Democrats – that remains all too rare in D.C.,” he said.
That is an important promise for a Democrat in a Republican-leaning district. It is also heavily Hispanic, and Gallego’s name can be expected to help him south of San Antonio and in the towns along the district’s 800-mile border with Mexico.
Hurd is the first black Republican elected to Congress from Texas, and one of only two black Republicans in the U.S. House. A former CIA agent, he was immediately made chairman of an information technology subcommittee, an unusual promotion for a first-term member of Congress.
Hurd, in a phone interview Thursday morning, said “I think my voting record already shows I’m working across the aisle.”
Hurd supports strong border security, and Democrats are expected to make immigration a key issue. In announcing his challenge, Gallego sought to tie Hurd to GOP legislation that risked shutting down the Department of Homeland Security in February over President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.
Hurd, however, was one of four Texas Republicans who voted to support the agency’s funding without the immigration conditions sought by the GOP.
In political circles, a Gallego-Hurd rematch in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District had been expected, and long encouraged by Democrats in Washington who see better prospects for their party in a presidential election year.
Gallego is a known quantity who has represented large swaths of the district in Congress and in the Texas Legislature. A school is named after him in Eagle Pass.
He was elected to Congress in 2012 after defeating Republican incumbent Quico Canseco, who in turn won the seat in 2010 by upending Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.
Given that history, Hurd has already been preparing for a strong 2016 challenge, telling supporters in a series of recent fundraising emails that he expects to be a top Democratic target. Their 2014 contest attracted heavy spending by outside groups on both sides.
The Gallego campaign will begin a listening tour of the district over the summer and hold a series of kick-off events in the fall.