When the Black Hat USA cybersecurity conference announced Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, as its keynote speaker June 13, organizers highlighted the congressman’s numerous qualifications, including his record of pushing cybersecurity initiatives in Congress, previous work as an undercover CIA officer, and experience as a senior adviser for a tech security firm. But a day after touting his accomplishments, the conference dropped him.
None of Hurd’s qualifications had changed, but TechCrunch, an online tech-focused news site, published a report citing his poor “voting record on women’s rights,” which included votes for pro-life measures. Potential conference attendees expressed their displeasure with the choice of Hurd, and Black Hat accommodated them by axing him.
NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion advocacy group, gave Hurd a zero percent rating on his congressional voting record for pro-abortion laws. By most other measures, the congressman votes far more moderately than most Republicans. Hurd was one of only eight GOP members of Congress to vote for the Equality Act, which would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes and potentially decrease protections for religious conscience objections. He has also accused President Donald Trump of being manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and is close friends with Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas.
The Democratic National Committee has targeted Hurd, whose West Texas seat could be vulnerable in the 2020 election. He won in 2019 by fewer than 1,000 votes in the only district along the Mexican border to elect a Republican to the House. Democrats already launched their first Spanish-language ad of the 2020 season against Hurd for his immigration views even though he has broken with his party on immigration policy and has suggested a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers who were brought to the country illegally as children.
With public pressure on the abortion issue mounting over the past year, pro-life members of Congress in swing districts like Hurd’s will face an important choice: Do they continue to stand strong on their stance in favor of unborn children, or do they sweep it under the carpet to protect themselves and the Republican Party? —Kyle Ziemnick