Updated Nov 3, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Texas Republicans sound alarm on party's future

Reps. Will Hurd and Dan Crenshaw each represent segments of how the GOP has to adapt if it wants to remain dominant — become not so white, and younger. But in interviews with “Axios on HBO,” it’s clear they don’t agree on how to build the future GOP.

Why it matters: Both Texas congressmen are watching signs the GOP is losing its stronghold on the Lone Star State as they pursue different paths to remain relevant.

Hurd, 42, the sole black Republican in the House, has decided not to seek re-election. He’s now explicitly focusing on making the party look more like the country.

  • Many of his white colleagues still serving in Congress view that as playing a so-called identity politics game.

"I hate engaging in identity politics," Crenshaw, the second-youngest House Republican at 35, said. "I just don't take it as a given that because you're nonwhite, that we should worry about you voting Democrat."

  • "[B]ut at the same time, people need different messengers for the same message. People do want to hear that message from somebody who they can relate with," Crenshaw added.

Hurd and Crenshaw agree on some universal principles about expanding their party's appeal: show up, talk to everyone and articulate how conservatism is looking out for the people who don't look like the rest of their party.

The big picture: As they watch the changing demographics in Texas, a shift expected to keep helping Democrats win elections, they're both thinking through how to make the GOP more inclusive.

  • "I do believe that if the Republican Party doesn't start looking like the rest of the country, there won't be a Republican Party in this country," Hurd told "Axios on HBO."
  • Hurd said he's talked with at least a dozen black Republicans who want to run for Congress in the last few weeks alone.
  • More than 1 in 4 members of the House of Representatives is a racial or ethnic minority, but only 10% of that group are Republicans.
  • Crenshaw said, "We would definitely like a more diverse candidate list and we’re definitely accomplishing that for the 2020 cycle."

A Texas-sized problem for the GOP is unfolding right before their eyes. The retirement of six House Republicans from Texas at the end of this term shows a pessimism about winning back the House majority in 2020.

  • Crenshaw told "Axios on HBO" several factors are shaping the changes in Texas, including an influx of residents from bluer states, Trump's non-traditional qualities and a bump in the proportion of younger voters.
  • "President Trump wasn't as popular as maybe more traditional Republicans would be in Texas," he said. "Millennials are overwhelmingly against Trump. I think that has a lot to do with it. I think it's more of a personality distaste for him."
  • Hurd, who won his re-election last year by just over 920 votes, says, "Texas is in play."
  • "Texas is a purple state. Just because we don't have a statewide elected Democrat doesn't mean Texas is not already purple," Hurd said. "We should be operating as if it's purple."
  • Crenshaw said "it's a worry" but "a bit overstated" and that "I don't think it will happen in 2020."

What to watch: Although Hurd is not seeking re-election, he plans to help more diverse candidates around the country and make sure the GOP is talking to minorities, people under 29 and suburban women with college degrees.

  • Crenshaw's play to attract more millennials: Make conservatism "cool" again.

Go deeper: Texas Republicans admit there's a problem

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Crenshaw "hate[s] engaging in identity politics" but believes the party needs more diverse messengers. An earlier version of this story said he dismisses the idea of specifically recruiting non-white and younger candidates.

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