By Kate Sullivan, CNN
(CNN) — Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, who announced his 2024 Republican presidential campaign earlier Thursday with an anti-Donald Trump message, said he won’t sign the Republican National Committee’s pledge to back the party’s ultimate nominee in order to participate in primary debates.
“I won’t be signing any kind of pledges, and I don’t think parties should be trying to rig who should be on a debate stage,” he told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins Thursday evening.
“I am not in the business of lying to the American people in order to get a microphone, and I’m not going to support Donald Trump. And so I can’t honestly say I’m going to sign something even if he may or may not be the nominee,” he added.
Hurd joins a crowded field looking to challenge Trump, the front-runner for the nomination, and he admitted it’ll be “difficult for a dark-horse candidate like me.”
An undercover CIA officer before entering politics, Hurd has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump following his indictment on federal charges over alleged mishandling of classified documents. Asked if the former president, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, betrayed the country, Hurd said, “100% he did.”
Hurd told Collins that if the allegations are true, “It’s slapping the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way every single night in order to keep us safe.”
Hurd launched his campaign earlier in the day calling for “common sense.”
“This is a decision that my wife and I decided to do because we live in complicated times and we need common sense,” he said on CBS earlier Thursday morning.
“There are a number of generational defining challenges that we’re faced with in the United States of America – everything from the Chinese government trying to surpass us as the global superpower, the fact that inflation is persistent at a time when technologies like artificial intelligence is going to upend every single industry, and our kids, their scores in math, science and reading are the lowest they’ve ever been in this century,” the former congressman said.
“These are the issues we should be talking about. And to be frank, I’m pissed that we’re not talking about these things,” Hurd added in the CBS interview.
Besides Trump, Republican presidential contenders also include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and conservative talk radio host Larry Elder.
“Too many of these candidates in this race are afraid of Donald Trump,” Hurd said on CBS of the GOP primary field.
Hurd added that, if elected to the White House, he would not pardon Trump should the former president be convicted, adding that he thought it was “insane” that other candidates were open to the idea.
Ramaswamy has committed to pardoning Trump if he’s elected president. Haley, Suarez and Elder have also suggested they would be inclined to do so.
Hurd was a rare Republican critic of Trump during his time in Congress from 2015 to 2021. Representing a swing district in Texas that covered the largest stretch of the US-Mexico border of any congressional seat, he opposed Trump’s border wall and argued it was less effective than other forms of border security.
Hurd was one of four House Republicans in 2019 to vote in support of a resolution condemning Trump’s racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen of color. He also authored a New York Times op-ed in 2018 arguing that Trump was being manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite his outspoken criticism, Hurd said in 2019 that he would vote for Trump the following year were he to be the GOP nominee.
Hurd had been fueling speculation about a potential presidential run with trips to early-voting primary states in recent months. Hurd was in New Hampshire last week and told local station WMUR 9 he was evaluating whether his candidacy would have a path to the GOP nomination. In January, he spoke at the annual meeting of the New Hampshire Republican Party – the same event where Trump kicked off his 2024 campaigning. Hurd also visited Iowa for the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s spring event that included several other 2024 GOP hopefuls.
Hurd was the only Black Republican in the House when he announced in 2019 that he would not seek reelection and instead pursue opportunities outside government to “solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.” Hurd served in the CIA for almost a decade before coming to Congress. As a congressman, he served on the House Intelligence Committee, which is charged with oversight of the US intelligence community.
Hurd first ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Quico Canseco in a runoff for the GOP nomination. Four years later, Hurd defeated Canseco, by then a former congressman, in another primary runoff before narrowly unseating Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego in the general election. He was narrowly reelected in 2016 and 2018, defeating Gallego and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, respectively.
This story has been updated with Hurd’s interview on CNN.
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Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.