First-term Rep. Will Hurd of Texas is one of just two black Republicans in the House -- and both are in close contests to keep their seats. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
BY: SOO RIN KIM
GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump doesn't have the best track record with African American communities. He's made plenty of gaffes, calling a black man a "thug" and shouting "Get him out!" when he thought the man was disrupting a rally. He broke with tradition and declined to speak at the NAACP's annual convention. He implied in one debate that most African Americans live in inner cities.
No wonder that two black Republicans locked in tight contests to save their jobs in the House have steered clear of Trump.
Rep. Will Hurd (Texas) and Rep. Mia Love (Utah), the only two Republicans among the record-breaking 46 African Americans in the current House, are both struggling to defend their seats in overwhelmingly red states, Texas and Utah.
Hurd, who took office after defeating then-incumbent Rep. Pete Gallego in 2014, will face the Democrat again next week. Unlike the other 36 safely Republican districts in Texas, the 23rd Congressional District has been a been a battleground since 2010, flipping between parties every election.
With his incumbent advantage, Hurd has raised a total of $3.6 million through mid-October this year, nearly double Gallego's $1.9 million.
The Texas showdown has attracted plenty of outside money on both sides, with about equal amounts shoring up each candidate -- roughly $4.4 million spent on Hurd's behalf and $5.3 million on Gallego's. The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have spent $2.4 million and $3 million respectively on the candidates. Conservative super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund and its liberal equivalent, House Majority PAC (both of them branches, in effect, of the NRCC and the DCCC) have invested $1.7 million and $2.2 million each.
With historically low support for the GOP presidential hopeful from Hispanic voters, it has become extra challenging for Hurd to win over the heavily Hispanic population in his district, which hugs the U.S.-Mexico border.
Not surprisingly, Hurd has drawn a clear line between himself and Trump, and told the El Paso Times earlier this month, "He should step aside for a true conservative to beat Hillary Clinton," in an effort to avoid being associated with the nominee -- whose words about Hispanics have been even more inflammatory than his comments about blacks. One of the leading conservative megadonors in the #NeverTrump movement, Paul E. Singer, has maxed out to Hurd, giving him $5,400.
The only other African American GOP House member, Rep. Mia Love, is locked in a similarly precarious battle in Utah's 4th Congressional District.
In 2014, Love defeated Democratic challenger Doug Owens by five percent to become the first black female Republican to be elected to the House in U.S. history; next week, the freshman faces the same Democratic rival again
The Utah contest has managed to attract some of the biggest dollars among all congressional races.
Love, who had raised over $5 million through mid-October this year, has received the biggest portion of her funds from donors giving $200 or less, whereas larger donations have been the biggest source of cash for Owens' campaign so far.
Strongly backed by the Democratic party, Owens was one of the first members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue Program that aims to deliver traditionally Republican districts to Democrats.
Liberal House Majority PAC has recently doubled its support for Owens with a last-minute injection of nearly $500,000 in ads, briniging its total investment in the race to $850,000. But overall, the district has gotten relatively sparse attention from outside groups this cycle, seeing just a bit over $1.5 million in total spending benefiting both candidates combined.