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Primary race to challenge U.S Rep. Will Hurd draws two more Democrats

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, speaks at the Border Unity Rally on March 25, 2017. Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Two more prominent Democrats are joining the race to challenge U.S Rep. Will Hurd, whose sprawling 23rd Congressional district runs across much of the Texas border, via Texas Tribune.

The race for Texas' most competitive congressional district is drawing two more Democrats.

Jay Hulings, a former federal prosecutor from San Antonio, said Sunday he could no wait no longer to launch a challenge to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes. Hulings is an ally of the Castro brothers — U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro.
"Washington is so broken and Congress is so broken," Hulings said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. "There are times when you can sit on the sidelines. This not one of them. I decided I have to get in the fight."

Hulings is moving quickly to establish himself as a top-tier candidate in what's expected to be a crowded primary field. His last day at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas was this last week. He's working with the Castros' political team, and he is expected to soon begin rolling out endorsement from prominent Democratic officials.

Hulings' entrance into the race was  first reported by the San Antonio Express-News.

On Friday, Hurd got another Democratic challenger: Rick Treviño, a teacher from San Antonio who ran for its City Council earlier this year and narrowly missed a runoff. He had the backing of Our Revolution, the group aligned with former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. 

In an interview, Treviño promised to run a campaign firmly focused on ideas such as "Medicare-for-All" — referring to a single-payer health care system — and a living wage tied to inflation.

"My platform is not going to be tempered by considerations of what corporate donors or the establishment thinks," Treviño said. "I just know what I’m going to do is stick to my issues, stick to my platform."
Hulings and Treviño join Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, in vying for a shot at Hurd in 2018. A number of other Democrats are still looking at the race, including former U.S. Rep.  Pete Gallego, the Alpine Democrat who represented the district from 2013-2015.

After the announcements by Hulings and Treviño, Gallego's team suggested he's not in a rush to reach a decision on the race, which would be his third match against Hurd. Hurd unseated Gallego in 2014, and Gallego unsuccessfully ran to reclaim the seat in 2016.

"Pete is still exploring the race and will decide using his own timetable, leaving plenty of time to run and win," Gallego spokesman Alexander Edelman said in a statement. "Because he has the luxury of being so well known in the district he doesn't feel the pressure that some of the other candidates may be under."

Treviño called Gallego's potential candidacy one of the reasons the teacher decided to get in the race. Noting Hillary Clinton won the district while Gallego lost in it in 2016, Treviño said of Gallego: "Why should we entrust him again? Right now there's so much on the line."
The decisions by Hulings and Treviño to enter the race come days come days after a  federal court redistricting ruling that left Hurd's 23rd District untouched while invalidating two other districts. Yet the shape of the 23rd district could still be affected, as it shares a border in the San Antonio area with the 35th district, one of the two that are now set to be redrawn.

Hurd's campaign responded Sunday to the two new challengers by raising the possibility of a bruising Democratic primary that hurts the party's overall chances of reclaiming the 23rd District.

"The Democratic Party hired the former assistant to [U.S. Rep.] Debbie Wasserman Schultz to influence the primary process in Texas 23," Hurd campaign manager Justin Hollis said in a statement, apparently referring to Amy Kroll, a Texas Democratic Party staffer who previously worked for Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat and former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. "She's clearly not doing her job. I'm sure the national Democrats are furious."

Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said the only role it and the national party have in primaries is administering them. Kroll's job, Garcia added, is to talk to Hurd's constituents and hear their concerns — "just like Hurd isn't."

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.