Former congressman, CIA operative battle for Republican congressional nomination
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
FAR WEST TEXAS – Republican voters in Texas Congressional District 23 will soon decide who their nominee will be to challenge incumbent Democratic Congressman Pete Gallego in the November general election.
Three Republicans sought the nomination during the March 4 primary election, but no single candidate earned the minimum 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff. Seeking the nomination were the former Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco, retired undercover CIA operative Will Hurd, and physician Robert Lowry. When the final votes were tallied, Canseco and Hurd were neck-and-neck. Canseco received 10,332 votes or 40 percent, while Hurd received 10,496 votes or 41 percent. Lowry was outpaced, receiving 4,796 votes or 19 percent.
Voters will choose between Canseco and Hurd during the runoff election on May 27.
Both Canseco and Hurd describe themselves a conservative candidates, ready to fight the federal government for what they perceive as constant overreaching into states’ rights. Canseco, who served in Congress for one term, cites on his campaign website one of his “landmark victories” during that time as “doing battle with the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent them from crippling Texas’ energy industry for the sake of a single Texas lizard.”
Similarly, Hurd told The Big Bend Sentinel this week that after meeting with district residents, a major concern is the negative impact that the Environmental Protection Agency has had on the oil and gas industry by redefining navigable water rights.
And while both candidates oppose the Affordable Care Act, list combating water scarcity as a top priority, and share similar positions on a range of other issues, they also describe experience as the main difference between each other.
“There is nobody in the 435 members (of the House of Representatives) with my experience in intelligence and national security,” said Hurd, who served as a human intelligence gatherer for the CIA in dangerous places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. “On day one, I’ll be able to have an impact.” He added that one of his goals, if elected, is to be the “gold standard” in constituent relations.
For Canseco, the differences between himself and Hurd are vast.
“I have a lifelong track record of giving back. I’ve only been in politics a short, short time in my life and I have a proven record of conservative values,” Canseco said this week. “You can’t find out anything about (Hurd) other than what he can tell you.”
The congressional district the two Republicans are vying to represent includes about 800 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Canseco describes as a “gold mine” in terms of cross-border trade and job opportunities. He added that he supports opening the border more to increase commerce.
“We need to take a common sense approach to the issue of immigration. We also need to look at the security and sovereignty of our nation,” Canseco said, adding that border security and immigration reform are not mutually exclusive.
While Canseco didn’t definitively say whether he supports a pathway to citizenship for some migrants or not, he is in favor of easing the process to obtain work permits.
Canseco doesn’t necessarily support deploying more Border Patrol officers to the U.S. boundaries, saying that the agency needs more realistic rules of engagement and to redefine the job description of those agents.
“The issue of border security is a combination of exercising your sovereignty, but at the same time, gain the cooperation of our friend and neighbor to the south,” said Canseco. “The bottom line is: we have enough Border Patrol agents.”
Hurd, on the other hand, said he prefers to listen to the needs of border security personnel and border residents in determining whether or not more Border Patrol officers are needed. Like Canseco, Hurd also supports removing barriers for guest worker permits.
In terms of creating a pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants, Hurd said existing rules and procedures are sufficient, adding, “I’m against amnesty.”
Early voting in the primary election runoff begins on Monday, May 19 and runs through Friday, May 23. Election day is Tuesday, May 27.