The legislation would reduce mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses and largely ban solitary confinement for juveniles.
In our weekly look at congressional races across the country, we turn now to Texas’s 23rd congressional district, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, the incumbent, will face Republican Will Hurd in November.
Hurd, a San Antonio native and former CIA agent, is attempting to shake things up in the Democrat-held district on the border between Texas and Mexico. The race is expected to be very close, in a district that has switched back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in recent years.
Ben Philpott of KUT joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson with details on the approaching race.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
And as we continue to follow the crisis in Iraq, we're also following politics here in this country. There are no primary elections this week but our district profiles continue.
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HOBSON: For our weekly look at congressional races across the country, we turn now to Texas's 23rd Congressional District. The incumbent, Democrat Pete Gallego will face Republican Will Hurd this November. And here to tell us more is Ben Philpott, senior political reporter for KUT in Austin - that's part of the HERE AND NOW contributors network. Hi, Ben.
BEN PHILPOTT, BYLINE: Hi, hello.
HOBSON: Well, first of all, describe this district for us.
PHILPOTT: It's gigantic. It's probably larger than most of the states on the East Coast. It actually takes up about 25 percent of the state of Texas in terms of land mass, but not a lot of people in the middle. I mean, you know, over 600,000 like any congressional district. But a lot of open ranchland, a lot of just open space in there that goes all the way from the outside of El Paso, Texas, on the far west part of the state to the western side of San Antonio in the central part of the state.
HOBSON: OK well, tell us about the incumbent freshman Democrat Pete Gallego. Here is a pro-Gallego ad released by the League of Conservation Voters and the Texas League of Conservation.
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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: While Washington bickers, China's investing in the next generation of clean energy technology. Work that should be done here is going overseas. But Pete Gallego is doing something about it, demanding our government buy clean energy technology made in America to compete against unfair trade from China. And working with both parties to cut taxes for small business and boost clean energy. Call Congressman Gallego, thank him for working for clean energy jobs in Texas.
HOBSON: So the ad says he's a clean energy guy. Is that the case?
PHILPOTT: Yeah, he does - he's pushing for the idea of, you know, getting more solar energy, more wind energy jobs here in the state - maybe moving solar panel manufacturing, you know, out of China and back into Texas, where they actually collect a lot of the natural resources that they then ship to China to make the solar panels and then ship them back to the United States. So yeah, that's definitely one of his high points.
HOBSON: What about immigration? We just saw in this Eric Cantor loss last week that some people were pointing to immigration as a reason, although some say that is not the case, that's not what caused him to go down in that race. But is immigration coming up in this race?
PHILPOTT: Gallego is absolutely for, you know, some kind of immigration reform and part of that group that's trying to get Congress to move in some direction. You know, he's facing a candidate who talks about - Republican Will Hurd - who talks about the idea of border security and - and not allowing amnesty within any kind of legislation that makes it through Congress. And also, Gallego will bring up the fact that recently, the state Republican Party has adopted a more harsh immigration plank as part of their party platform. So he will be on the campaign trail trying to remind people in this district, which is about 55 to 60 percent Hispanic, that Republicans are not supporters of yours. I am, I've been here. I grew up in the Valley. So, you know, consider voting for me again.
HOBSON: Well, let's hear from the Republican. This is Will Hurd, who had a tough primary. He won in a runoff. Let's listen to his ad.
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WILL HURD: Why can't politicians get anything done? It's because folks in D.C. are more interested in fighting amongst themselves than doing the work of the people. I've been in real fights - overseas in the CIA, I witness folks struggling for freedom and I stare down those trying to end our way of life. Our problems can be solved but we have to change the kinds of people we send to Congress. Instead of politics as usual, let's focus on results. My name is Will Hurd, I'm running for Congress and I approve this message.
HOBSON: And Hurd is referring in that ad to his service as an undercover CIA officer in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. What else should we know about Will Hurd?
PHILPOTT: Well, you know, in Texas it matters where you go to school. He went to Texas A&M University, which is, you know, I hate to say it, but kind of a conservative buzzword as much as saying you go to the University of Texas at Austin as being a liberal buzzword. But yeah, he does talk a lot about border security and national security and intelligence, saying that he already expects that, you know, if elected, he'll have a better understanding of those issues than, you know, almost any other Congressman. He is kind of considered a Tea Party candidate, so it's, you know, lowering taxes and lowering regulation and more freedom and border security.
HOBSON: And if he's elected, he could be the only Republican African-American in the House of Representatives.
PHILPOTT: Yes, that's right. And, you know, in a district that has elected a Hispanic, either Republican or Democrat, for multiple years, that would be another big change within this district.
HOBSON: So Ben, is there a lot of outside money coming to this race?
PHILPOTT: Oh absolutely. You know, this is one of the only congressional seats - and maybe actually the only congressional seat in Texas - that wasn't predetermined by redistricting to be either a Republican or a Democratic seat. This is a seat that again has changed hands between Democrats and Republicans and then back to Democrat in just 2012, when Gallego was able to win the seat from - from a Republican congressman. He only won by about 4,000 or 5,000 votes. This is also a district that even though they elected a Democratic Congressman in 2012, the majority of voters selected Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.
PHILPOTT: So one of the few congressional districts where you saw that flip.
HOBSON: That's Ben Philpott, senior political reporter for KUT in Austin, Texas, part of the HERE AND NOW contributors network, talking to us about the 23rd Congressional District in Texas. Ben, thanks.
PHILPOTT: Thank you.
HOBSON: And if you go to hereandnow.org, you can see our other district profiles. You can also suggest one. If you'd like us to take a look at a race in your district, we'd love to do that - hereandnow.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.