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Texan Will Hurd calls RNC process ‘unacceptable’ after failing to qualify for GOP debate

Then-Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) in 2019.
Loren Elliott
Then-Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) in 2019.

Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd has made standing up to Donald Trump a centerpiece of his campaign for president. But the Texas Republican won’t be able to share his criticisms of the former president and GOP frontrunner with a national audience on the debate state Wednesday night.

Hurd, a former CIA agent who represented a swath of Texas that stretched from El Paso to San Antonio in Congress, failed to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday in Milwaukee. Hurd has been trailing in the polls despite some notable appearances on national television this month and called his exclusion “antithetical to the Democratic process.”

“The [Republican National Committee’s] polling standards are arbitrary, unclear, and lack consistency. This is an unacceptable process for a presidential election. The American people deserve better,” Hurd said in a statement, referring to the national party that sets the guidelines on whom can participate.

 Hurd talks with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during their Fair-Side Chat at the Iowa State Fair, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall
Associated Press
Hurd talks with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during their Fair-Side Chat at the Iowa State Fair, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Hurd also said his unwillingness to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee, which most pundits predict will be Trump, cost him stage time.

“I have said from day one of my candidacy that I will not sign a blood oath to Donald Trump. The biggest difference between me and every single candidate who will be on the debate stage in Milwaukee is that I have never bent the knee to Trump,” Hurd added. “It’s disappointing being kept off the debate stage, but I will not be deterred. The stakes are too high.”

Other criteria that must be met include having at least 40,000 donors, according to the RNC, including at least 200 in more than 20 states or territories. The other includes polling at least 1 percent in three national polls or 1 percent in two national polls and 1 percent in an early-state poll. Hurd said the RNC discounted polls that include Independent and Democratic voters.

Since announcing his candidacy in June, Hurd has been somewhat of an outlier — only he and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been outspoken about former president Trump, his legal woes and what they call Trump’s hijacking of the GOP.

“My issue is not supporting the Republican nominee, my issue is I’m not going to support Donald Trump,” Hurd said on CNN earlier this month. “Donald Trump is not running for president to make America great again. Donald Trump is running for president to stay out of prison.”

He told MSNBC on Monday that he’d offer some free advice to the other candidates in the field: stop bowing down to Trump.

“If Donald Trump is leading in the polls, and he’s your opponent, then kissing his butt is not going to help you,” Hurd told host Jen Psaki. “It’s not going to help you win.”

Last weekend Trump confirmed he won’t attend the debate either, arguing that his record while in office proves he’s the best candidate and he doesn’t need to prove that anymore.

“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” Trump said on social media, according to the Associated Press. “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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Julián Aguilar | The Texas Newsroom