Who is Will Hurd, the 45 year-old Republican presidential hopeful? : The NPR Politics Podcast Will Hurd is a 45 year-old former CIA agent who served six years representing western Texas in the House. He told us that he's running because he sees generational challenges facing America's "fragile democracy."

This episode: political correspondent Susan Davis, White House correspondent Asma Khalid.

The podcast is produced by Elena Moore and Casey Morell. Our editor is Eric McDaniel. Our executive producer is Muthoni Muturi.

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Who is Will Hurd, the 45 year-old Republican presidential hopeful?

Who is Will Hurd, the 45 year-old Republican presidential hopeful?

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Will Hurd is running for president because, he told The NPR Politics Podcast, "Democracy is fragile. We need people that are working towards it." Elizabeth Gillis/NPR hide caption

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Elizabeth Gillis/NPR

Will Hurd is running for president because, he told The NPR Politics Podcast, "Democracy is fragile. We need people that are working towards it."

Elizabeth Gillis/NPR

Will Hurd, who served in the CIA for a decade and as a member of the House of Representatives from Texas for six years, said that he was running for president because he believes the country is facing generational challenges — including artificial intelligence, competition with China, a struggling education system and precarious civic health.

"Democracy is fragile," Hurd said in a conversation with The NPR Politics Podcast. "We need people that are working towards it."

Here are some key takeaways – including where he stands on issues like abortion, immigration and climate change – from the conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

He said he is mounting his "dark horse" bid for the presidency because he's tired of Republicans losing.

We're coming up on 20 years that a Republican has not won a popular vote at the national level. And part of that is we are nominating candidates that are unable to build the GOP, or grow the GOP brand, with the largest growing groups of voters — women with a college degree in the suburbs, Black and brown communities and people under the age of 35.

And I've been lucky to have some amazing experiences. And my wife is on board with this adventure. And that's why I've decided to get in.

He says our politics have elevated the "lunatic fringes."

These are the folks that are dominating social media. These are the folks that are dominating cable news. These are the conversations that are dominating the debates we have about the future of our country.

And the reason for that is simple. Only 23% of Americans vote in primaries. The other 77 percent — part of them are like, "we're sick and tired of everybody. Everybody are a bunch of morons."

And they're not being spoken to about their issues. And so, for me, when I talk about the soul of our country, the very foundation of our government is being attacked. We have a lack of trust in all of our institutions by the American public, whether it's federal government, state government, local government, academia, the press ... you name it.

And so the only way that the United States is going to exist for another 247 years is if we address some of these macro problems.

[Editor's note: The group States United Action estimates primary turnout at an average of 27 percent in elections held since 2000.]

On why he voted against former President Donald Trump's impeachment while serving in the House of Representatives.

My standard for impeachment has always been a violation of the law. When I was running in 2014 in Republican primaries, every candidate forum, there was a question: Are you going to impeach Barack Hussein Obama? And it was like, "for what?" I do not view impeachment as a political tool. And so my standard has always been a violation of the law. And when it came to Donald Trump's phone call with President Zelenskyy, it did not meet any other criteria for bribery or extortion. Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not know that the aid had been paused. And the aid ultimately was given.

He says he would have voted to support the second impeachment over the former president's actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and that he considers Trump a threat to U.S. democracy.

Yes, because the very specific thing of the phone call to the Georgia secretary of state — asking the Georgia secretary of state to knowingly violate the law.

And then when you look at some of the evidence he January 6th committee produced. So to me, that meets the requirement of a violation of the law.

Donald Trump is a threat to national security. Period. Full stop. And guess who loves all this drama? Guess who loves all this back and forth? Our adversaries. They're laughing that we're having to potentially have another indictment. They're laughing that Donald Trump has tons of baggage.

So, yes, he absolutely is [a threat to U.S. democracy]. But the best way to be done with Donald Trump once and for all is to beat him in the primary.

He says he believes a third party candidate — like one that could be mounted by the group No Labels — could theoretically win the presidency.

So, can a third party win in the United States? Yes, I think we can. I still haven't come to a conclusion of, is a third party in the United States good for outcomes long-term? Or does it turn into coalition politics?

But from a logistical standpoint for a 2024 election, is there going to be enough to get 50% of the vote and not have something go to the House of Representatives if the 270 threshold for the Electoral College doesn't happen? If it goes to i the House, guess what? No third party candidate is going to have anybody vote for them.

So I think competition is always a good thing. Who those candidates are matter. Because ultimately, I do not want to see Joe Biden or Donald Trump be the next president of the United States.

He did not say whether he would accept a third party nomination.

Look, I'm working towards becoming the Republican nominee and that is my focus and in my attention. And I think that is the better route to once and for all be rid of Donald Trump and to have a Republican Party that has an opportunity to win in the general election.

So for me, the idea of thinking through a plan B — I'm not built that way, especially when I know what my tasks are over the next couple of months.

Hurd acknowledges that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election — and he won't support Trump if Trump is the nominee.

Yes, Joe Biden won. And let me put a finer point on it. The election was not stolen from Donald Trump. He lost it.

He lost it because he was incapable of growing the GOP brand to those largest groups of voters that we talked about earlier, women in the suburbs, folks in Black and brown communities, and people under the age of 35. And the 2020 election was one of the most secure elections in our history.

I'm not voting for Donald Trump. I'm not going to vote for Joe Biden. I'll probably write somebody in [if those candidates are nominated].

He supports a federal 15-week abortion ban — but says states should expand maternal and neonatal care.

If Congress put a 15-week ban on my desk, I would sign it.

But also, if states are restricting this, those states should also have the best neonatal health, the best maternity health care.

The fact that many Black women in the United States — that their death rates during childbirth are equivalent to some of the developing world is absolutely outrageous.

Sowe should be talking about sex education, making sure contraception is available if this patchwork system is what's in place.

He has a lot of thoughts about reforming the immigration system.

Immigration — thanks for getting my blood pressure up — is one of those issues that's frustrating to me. It was something I worked on when I was in Congress. And this is one of those issues that Republicans and Democrats would rather use as a political bludgeon against each other than actually solving the problem.

You can't solve the problem of all the undocumented —unless you've solved about 12 other problems before you get to that. And that starts with the actual activity at our border right now. The fact that it's a humanitarian crisis, 5.5 million people have come into our country illegally. You have people right now sleeping on the cement in El Paso. That's not humane.

And the fact that the federal government and the state government can't actually talk to one another about how do we array federal resources and state resources to address this shared humanitarian problem, and how do we show a united front against the Mexican government to get the Mexican government to do more to stop human traffickers from sending people here illegally?

We can address it by working with the host countries from where the majority of this is coming from to have processing centers to deport more people by. How do we have our foreign aid work to address root causes in these countries like violence, lack of economic opportunity and extreme poverty?

He says he doesn't have a problem with Biden's pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

Climate change is real. Man is having an impact on it.

We need to be doing more to secure our future. And guess what? We can work to pull carbon out of the air and prevent carbon from going in the air at the same time making sure that we're continuing to keep our economy growing.

He says some kinds of health care for transgender children should wait until they are adults — but that the Republican party has devoted too much energy to the issue.

I don't think you should be doing something to a child's body until they're 18. But guess what? They need a place to go to the bathroom and the school should be able to figure out how they make that work.

I had a number of parents for transgender kids come in and talk to me and they're like, "My child, when they wake up, does not drink liquids because they don't want to have to go to the bathroom during the day." That's freaking crazy.

I don't think at elite levels that you should have someone who was born as a man participating in a women's sport at the elite level. But guess what? These entities should be the ones that make these decisions on this. That's what local control is all about.

But at the end of the day, we shouldn't be discriminating against people. That's one of the things that's frustrating for me. I wish some of my opponents in the Republican primary were more interested in trying to defeat a war criminal like Vladimir Putin rather than discriminating against my friends in the LGBTQ community.

Produced by Elena Moore and Casey Morell. Edited by Eric McDaniel. Edited for the web by Heidi Glenn. Broadcast engineering by Josephine Nyounai. Additional audio engineering by Hans Copeland. Muthoni Muturi is the executive producer of the NPR Politics Podcast.

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