Hurd focuses on the future of AI during Hanover presidential primary campaign stop

Dartmouth College sophomore Teddy Glover speaks with Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd following an event at the Rockefeller Center in the Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, July 20, 2023. Hurd is a former congressman from Texas and worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before entering politics. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth College sophomore Teddy Glover speaks with Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd following an event at the Rockefeller Center in the Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, July 20, 2023. Hurd is a former congressman from Texas and worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before entering politics. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Jennifer Hauck

Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd, left, listens to a question from Justin Anderson, Dartmouth College's vice president for communications, during the Rockefeller Center 2024 Presidential Candidate Speaker Series at the school on Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd, left, listens to a question from Justin Anderson, Dartmouth College's vice president for communications, during the Rockefeller Center 2024 Presidential Candidate Speaker Series at the school on Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Former New Hampshire State Sen Jim Rubens, of Etna, N.H., directs a question to Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd during the Rockefeller Center's 2024 Presidential Candidate Speaker Series at Dartmouth College on Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Former New Hampshire State Sen Jim Rubens, of Etna, N.H., directs a question to Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd during the Rockefeller Center's 2024 Presidential Candidate Speaker Series at Dartmouth College on Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

By BEATRICE BURACK

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 07-23-2023 2:54 AM

HANOVER — Former U.S. congressman Will Hurd, a recent entry into the Republican presidential primary, largely stayed away from hot-button topics like abortion, LGBTQ+ issues and guns during his Thursday visit to Dartmouth College. Instead, he focused on his pet policy issue: artificial intelligence.

During an hour-long speech and question-and-answer session at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, Hurd detailed a number of “policy initiatives that we should be doing in order to take advantage of AI before it takes advantage of us.”

Hurd, 45, who served as a clandestine CIA officer and a cybersecurity consultant before representing Texas’ 23rd district in Congress from 2015 to 2021, stressed the importance of having people in government who understand emerging technologies such as AI.

Hurd characterized himself as “the IT procurement guy” in Congress and touted his sponsorship of a 2020 House Resolution he described as “a national strategy for artificial intelligence.”

He acknowledged the fears some voters may have about AI but suggested that AI technologies are nonetheless the way of the future.

“We should be afraid of this,” said Hurd, who formerly served on the board of OpenAI, the company that launched the popular AI tool ChatGPT. “But it’s going to be a tool,” he continued, comparing AI to other technological advances like the internet.

“This is the opportunity that we have, but we’re not gonna be able to take advantage of these opportunities if we don’t have people in office at all levels that understand these technologies, that understand that regulation is needed in this case,” Hurd said.

It remains to be seen if his message will catch on with New Hampshire voters. He’s also a longshot nationally.

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Jim Rubens, a Hanover Republican, a former state senator and chairman of the Upper Valley Republicans, said he’s “not certain” that Hurd’s focus on AI will resonate with Upper Valley voters.

Still, Rubens noted, “There’s a lot of merit to a candidate that has a high degree of intelligence and can understand technology, can understand and grapple with complexity.”

As of Tuesday, Hurd was polling at 1% among New Hampshire primary voters, according to the Granite State Poll, a States of Opinion Project, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. This put him neck and neck with Mike Pence, 1%, and just ahead of Asa Hutchinson, 0%, but well behind frontrunners Ron DeSantis, 23%, and Donald Trump, 37%.

A Morning Consult poll conducted between July 14 and 16 found Hurd polling at 0% among Republican primary voters nationwide.

Josh Paul, a Republican from Westport, Conn., and rising junior at Dartmouth who plans to vote in the New Hampshire primary, said he was interested in meeting Hurd after seeing “a lot of his clips of him talking about policy” online.

Paul liked that Hurd is “a common-sense conservative who is experienced and didn’t support Trump from the get-go.”

Patty Anderson, an undeclared Hanover voter and Dartmouth economics professor, found Hurd to be “sensible and non-crazy” but said he was “a lot more focused on technology than I was expecting.”

“As a labor economist, I’m not even that worried about the job thing,” she said. “The buggy whip makers found new jobs, you know, when the cars came out.”

But, she said, “I think I agree with him” that AI is “a tool, it’s not the end-all be-all.”

Mac Hadden, an undeclared voter and rising junior at Dartmouth from Weston, Mass., who plans to vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary, questioned Hurd about the role of AI in education policy. Hadden said he “wanted to hear a little bit more about his plan for education in general,” while Hurd “seemed more so to just focus on viewing AI as one of these things that can be used as a solution for kids and education.”

Hadden said he also would have appreciated hearing about Hurd’s stances on more mainstream issues like taxes. “It’s always informative to hear some of the bread-and-butter policy stances,” he said.

Asked by a reporter if he thought voters shared his concern about AI, Hurd said, “My job is to … talk about the things that are actually important and not just the things that get people worked up on social media or that people talk about on cable news.”

Hurd said he appreciates the opportunity to campaign in New Hampshire because “the only way a dark horse candidate like me can do the thing folks think can’t be done is because Granite Staters have an open mind, they care about issues and they’re willing to take a chance on someone who they like.”

Beatrice Burack can be reached at bea.c.burack.25@dartmouth.edu.