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Will Hurd, The Only Black Republican In The House, Announces He Is Retiring

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The only African American Republican in the House of Representatives will not seek reelection next year. Congressman Will Hurd of Texas announced last night that he'll retire at the end of his term. This is part of a wave of GOP retirements. Even the woman in charge of recruiting new Republican House candidates announced she won't run for reelection. To talk more about what this means for the party, Carlos Curbelo joins us now. He was a Republican representing a district in South Florida until a Democrat defeated him last year.

Welcome, congressman.

CARLOS CURBELO: Ari, it's good to be with you. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: First, just give us your reaction to Will Hurd's departure.

CURBELO: It's sad. It's sad for the institution of the House. It's sad for the Republican Party. Will Hurd is very capable, very talented. He's a consensus builder in Congress. There aren't very many of those left. We've seen a lot of women, Hispanic and now another African American - because Mia Love lost last year, like I did - depart the Congress. And this is not good for the Republican Party, and I don't think it's good for the country either.

SHAPIRO: Why do you think the Republican Party is becoming a less welcoming place for people who are not white men? I mean, more than 90% of House Republicans right now are white men. Hurd was, as you say, the only black Republican in the house.

CURBELO: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the president's strategy and obviously with the tone and the rhetoric that he uses. Now, the president concluded in 2016 that it made great sense for him to run a base strategy, essentially to try to win older white voters. And that was a successful strategy and especially in the Midwest - I think in states like Florida. But I think that the changes we're seeing in the Republican Party - a lot of the departures are directly related to the president's style and his campaign strategy.

SHAPIRO: And to ask a blunt question - what kind of future does the GOP have when it takes that approach in a country that's becoming more diverse every year?

CURBELO: Well, obviously, it's a challenge for the future. But I think what's even more dangerous is that our country and our society are being further divided. We're really headed down a path where it appears that there is one party for older white voters and then there's another party that's for people of color and immigrants.

People should not affiliate with parties by race or ethnicity; they should affiliate to parties based on the ideas and the proposals of each party. And the former is happening, and it's extremely toxic. It divides our country in a dangerous way, and it really diminishes our democracy.

SHAPIRO: So what direction would you like to see the party take? I mean, what would be your ideal vision?

CURBELO: Well, I think the party was on a good path after the 2012 election. When any organization or individual faces a setback, I think the important thing to do is to be honest with yourself and identify how you can get better. And if you're a political party, that means how you can appeal to more people.

And of course, there will always be people beyond the reach of either political party, but to be able to get big things done, whichever party is in power is going to have to be able to convince a good majority of the American people that their way is the right way, and the Republican party isn't doing that. They're trying to win by maximizing this base strategy. And again, that can result in election victories, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be able to accomplish big things for the country.

SHAPIRO: Carlos Curbelo was a Republican congressman from South Florida. He's now a political analyst for NBC and Telemundo.

Thanks so much for talking with us.

CURBELO: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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