Hurd

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li­can in an over­whelm­ingly His­panic district — he fielded a ques­tion from Alma Castillo, a 63-year-old Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who em­i­grated from Mex­ico when she was 2.

She shared an emo­tional story of be­ing threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion be­cause of an in­nocu­ous pa­per­work is­sue and said Trump is di­vid­ing the coun­try along racial lines.

“The bills that they’re pass­ing, it’s pro­fil­ing,” Castillo said. “I want you to take this back to Mr. Trump to let him know what he is do­ing to our coun­try.”

Hurd, who has crit­i­cized many of Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion stances, is bet­ter equipped to win over vot­ers like Castillo than most Repub­li­cans. He hugged Castillo, draw­ing ap­plause, and said that im­mi­grants make the coun­try bet­ter.

“We have ben­e­fited from the brain drain of ev­ery other coun­try the last cou­ple of decades,” Hurd said. “I want to make sure that we con­tinue to ben­e­fit our coun­try be­cause your story and what you have done has made our com­mu­nity safer. So I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate you shar­ing your story, and these are the sto­ries that guide me as I’m up in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.”

A bira­cial mod­er­ate with blue-col­lar roots and a distin­guished ca­reer in the CIA, Hurd is ei­ther a har­bin­ger of a more di­verse Repub­li­can Party — as some in Wash­ing­ton have de­clared — or a sym­bol of the eth­nic and ide­o­log­i­cal diver­sity that the party is strug­gling to hold on to in the Trump era. Hurd will be one of Democrats’ top tar­gets in the 2018 midterm elec­tions, and chal­lengers are al­ready emerg­ing.

At his first stop Sun­day, the sec­ond-term con­gress­man was quizzed on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, net neu­tral­ity, med­i­cal mar­i­juana for vet­er­ans, the re­peal of Oba­macare and the de­por­ta­tion of so-called Dream­ers, unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. as chil­dren. Talk­ing over blend- ers churn­ing out Bl­iz­zards be­hind him, Hurd rat­tled off an­swers. He didn’t ad­dress ev­ery ques­tion di­rectly, but he ex­plained why he wanted to try.

“That’s why I’m do­ing 20 town halls in six days to hear these con­cerns. That’s why I’m out in a place that I didn’t win — be­cause I rep­re­sent ev­ery­body, not just the peo­ple that vote for me,” he said.

El Paso school district teacher Xavier Mi­randa, a lo­cal po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist who pep­pered Hurd on a num­ber of is­sues, said he wasn’t sat­is­fied with the con­gress­man’s re­sponses.

“He’s be­ing po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent,” Mi­randa said of Hurd’s mod­er­ate stands, such as vot­ing against the House Repub­li­can plan to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The fast-food town halls, Mi­randa said, are also de­signed for Hurd’s po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit be­cause they al­low him to get in and get out with­out hav­ing to face ex­tended ques­tion­ing from a large crowd.

But does he get credit for at least show­ing his face at a time when some Repub­li­cans are con­duct­ing town halls over the phone or not at all?

“I’m sur­prised he showed up. He’ll get credit for that,” Mi­randa said.

While Hurd prob­a­bly didn’t win over those who showed up to protest him, he in­tro­duced him­self to less po­lit­i­cally en­gaged con­stituents who were just there for a burger.

Lydia Arias, 63, said she is a life­long Demo­crat and op­poses Trump. But she re­mem­bered see­ing some­thing about Hurd on the lo­cal news that made her think he gen­uinely cares about His­pan­ics and El Pa­soans. She didn’t re­al­ize he was a Repub­li­can un­til meet­ing him Sun­day.

“He’s a Repub­li­can?” Arias said after shak­ing Hurd’s hand. “Oh, well, I’ll change my mind be­cause I want to vote for him.”

Meet­ing him in per­son, she said, helped seal the deal. “He’s hand­some,” she said. Her hus­band laughed while chew­ing a burger.

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