With three new members, Texas helps GOP boost its power in the House

The House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. McClatchy

Texas is sending three new members to Congress, all Republican, all conservative, who are vastly different in age and background and – to the delight of party leaders – include the first African-American Republican elected from the Lone Star State.

Will Hurd of San Antonio is a 37-year-old former CIA undercover operative who won the only close race for the U.S. House of Representative in the entire state Tuesday. He narrowly defeated Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, 49.78 percent to 47.66 percent, in a district that is majority Hispanic and stretches 800 miles, from San Antonio to El Paso, along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Hurd had run and lost in the primary for the same seat in 2010. But the day before the election, Hurd boldly predicted he would win and expressed confidence that he would be a quick study in Congress.

“Nobody in the 435 members of the House has my background in national security,” he said in an interview with McClatchy. “I’m uniquely suited to have an impact on day one.”

Hurd was a CIA agent in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and stateside in D.C. and New York, working on security. He left the agency after 10 years to work in cyber-security in San Antonio.

“I believe he can be a superstar in the party,” said Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri.

Having an African-American Republican in Congress is a boost to party promises of inclusion, he said: “Will Hurd is a symbol that the party means what it says.”

During his post-election news conference Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave Hurd a shout-out by trumpeting the election of an African-American Republican from Texas.

John Ratcliffe, 49, is from a district east of Dallas in North Texas. He has known he was going to be the congressman since last May when he beat the longtime incumbent, 91-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, in the primary runoff.

With no Democratic Party opposition, Ratcliffe, a lawyer and a former U.S. attorney, has been preparing to take office for months.

“My future job title will be United States representative, and I take that very seriously,” he said in a statement. “It means that I work for the people and not the other way around. I’m grateful for the opportunity to head to Washington and fight for the conservative values needed to put this country on a better path.”

Brian Babin, 66, is a dentist who was actually semi-retired when the southeastern Texas seat suddenly opened up with the decision by Rep. Steve Stockman to run for U.S. Senate. Stockman lost in the Republican primary.

“I thought I was retiring,” the Woodville dentist and Air Force and Army veteran said in an interview. “Little did I know what was in store for me. I was going to fade off into retirement sunset.”

Instead, Baben is fired up about repealing the Affordable Care Act, pushing tax reform and reducing regulations. “This is a call to duty,” said the father of five and grandfather of 11.

To Munisteri, the three members are all alike in one respect: “All hard-core conservatives.”

CORRECTION: The initial version of this story incorrectly stated the first name and misspelled the last name of newly elected Republican Rep. Brian Babin.