Robert Hurt (born June 16, 1969) is the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 5th congressional district, serving since January 2011. He is a member of the Republican Party. The district stretches from Charlottesville to Southside and west to Bedford and Franklin counties. Prior to joining Congress, Hurt was a state senator and delegate, councilman and attorney.
Hurt was born in New York City and raised in Chatham, Virginia. After graduating from Hampden-Sydney College and Mississippi College School of Law, Hurt served as a chief assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Pittsylvania County, Virginia from 1996 to 1999.
Afterwards, he worked as an attorney for the firm H. Victor Millner, Jr. P.C. in Chatham from 1999 to 2008 and opened his own law firm in 2008.
Hurt's political career began with his election to the Chatham Town Council. A year later, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and served three terms.
In 2007, Hurt was elected to the Senate of Virginia. In October 2009, Hurt announced that he would run for the U.S. Representative seat for the 5th congressional district in Virginia. After easily winning the primary, Hurt was elected to the House of Representatives, defeating the incumbent Democrat, Tom Perriello.
Early life, education, and law career
Hurt was born in New York City, where he lived for about nine years. His father, Henry Hurt, was a journalist and editor for Reader’s Digest. In 1986, Henry wrote a book questioning the findings of the Warren Commission called Reasonable Doubt: An Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Hurt was raised in Chatham, Virginia, attended Hargrave Military Academy and graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from Hampden-Sydney College in 1991 and a law degree from Mississippi College School of Law in 1995. Hurt also graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership program in 2000. He served as a chief assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Pittsylvania County from 1996 to 1999. From 1999 to 2008, Robert worked in a general law practice with the firm of H. Victor Millner, Jr. P.C. in Chatham. In 2008, Robert opened up his own law practice in Chatham.
Early political career
Hurt began his political career as a member of the Chatham Town Council. He was elected with 82 percent of the vote. Hurt was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2001 and served three terms. He represented the 16th District, which includes part of Henry County. He was elected and re-elected to the House of Delegates with at least 62 percent of the vote. He cited bringing the New College Institute and the Virginia Museum of Natural History as accomplishments that he and other legislators of both parties have worked together to bring to the area.
During his time as a delegate, Hurt worked to increase state funding for K-12 education and increase the safety of Virginia’s children through membership on the Courts of Justice Committee and the Youth Internet Safety Taskforce. Hurt voted two dozen times to cut taxes and supported 28 bills in the General Assembly that sought to reduce taxes on food, gas, cigarettes, cars, real estate, computer sales and other items. In 2004, Hurt voted in favor of a $1.4 billion tax increase to narrow the gap in Virginia’s budget. Hurt stated that the increase was essential, based on the information lawmakers had at the time, to refrain from a government shutdown over a budget impasse and has since stated regret over the vote.
In November 2007, Hurt was elected to the Senate of Virginia, winning 75 percent of the vote. Hurt represented the 19th district, which includes the city of Danville, Pittsylvania and Franklin counties, and part of Campbell county.
U.S. House of Representatives
On October 7, 2009, Hurt officially declared himself a candidate for Virginia's 5th congressional district. The district stretches from Charlottesville to Southside Virginia and west to Bedford and Franklin counties. Hurt was the Republican establishment candidate in the primary and was not received well by the Tea Party. On June 8, 2010, Hurt won the Republican nomination with a plurality in a crowded field of six other candidates. All of Hurt's opponents in the primary endorsed him. A local Tea Party Leader said his group would "unite behind" and "support" Hurt.
Hurt campaigned against Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello and Independent candidate Jeffrey Clark in the general election. Republicans viewed his as a pickup opportunity and poured resources into the race. Perriello was listed as one of the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents by Roll Call. Hurt was a member of the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" program.
On June 12, Hurt stated that he would "absolutely" participate in debates that included all the candidates, including Independent candidate Clark. Just days later, Hurt stated that he would not debate Clark. Although the statement was made in response to a direct query from a reporter as to whether he would debate Clark, Hurt’s campaign later tried to justify their position by insisting this was untrue. Hurt skipped the first debate which was organized by the Senior Statesmen of Virginia, becoming the first candidate to skip the forum since it started in 1996. In addition to the first debate, Hurt skipped two subsequent debates one sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in Nelson County and another hosted by American Legion Post 325 in Danville making a total of three skipped debates.
Hurt campaigned on his opposition to the Democratic-backed initiatives that Perriello supported, such as health-care reform, the economic stimulus package and clean energy legislation. On August 20, Hurt released his first television ad. Hurt's first television ad stated that he would fight tax increases, stop Washington’s spending and start creating jobs, however he never mentions his opponent. "You definitely see that he’s running against Congress as a whole and Democrats as a whole," Isaac Wood, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said. "That was very clear. He spent just a few seconds introducing himself, then pivoted right away to attack the negative things happening in D.C. With voters, that can be effective." Another ad from Hurt called Perriello a "rubber stamp" for the policies of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Hurt won with 51 percent of the vote.
After his win, Hurt submitted a formal letter of resignation from the Virginia General Assembly to Governor Bob McDonnell that would be effective on January 5, the day Hurt was sworn in to Congress. Hurt voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which successfully passed the House. In February, Hurt criticized President Barack Obama's $3.73 trillion 2012 federal budget proposal for its excessive spending and borrowing. Hurt would vote to pass a $1.2 trillion bill that would cut the year's budget federal budget by $61 billion. On April 8, Hurt voted for a continuing resolution that prevented the government from shutting down that day. Hurt expressed support for Paul Ryan's budget plan that month as well. On July 19, Hurt voted for the Cut, Cap and Balance Act. On August 1, Hurt voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011 that raised the debt ceiling and cut spending by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. Hurt co-sponsored a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from cracking down on farm dust. The bill passed the House on December 8.
- Social issues
Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun organization, gave Hurt an 78% approval rating. Asked if he supports the purchase and possession of guns, Hurts has consistently affirmed his support for gun rights.
Hurt has traditionally voted for legislation that restricts abortion. Virginia Society for Human Rights gave him a 100% approval rating. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice have consistently given him 0% approval ratings every year since 2002.
Equality Virginia has given him between 0% and 11% approval ratings for his position on LGBT rights.
Hurt has affirmed that he supports capital punishment for certain crimes.
- Fiscal issues
Hurt cosponsored the Balanced Budget Amendment, which did not pass the House of Representatives in November 2011. Hurt said of the bill, “By passing a Balanced Budget Amendment, Congress will be required to spend no more than it takes in, reining in out of control spending once and for all” Hurt also sponsored the Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act that would exempt private equity funds advisers from certain registration and reporting standards. In July, 2011 Hurt sponsored the Market Transparency and Taxpayer Protection Act which would “protect the taxpayers of the United States by requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to sell or dispose of the assets of such enterprises that are not critical to their missions.” However, because very little political leverage was used to pass this legislation, it most likely will die in committee. Hurt’s position on Government regulation is clear in his statement that “By reducing the unnecessary government regulations that hinder small businesses, keeping taxes low and allowing people to keep more of what they make, and cutting spending to get our fiscal house in order, the private sector will gain the confidence necessary to expand and create the jobs that the people of the 5th District need and deserve.”
During 2000-2010, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters gave Hurt an average approval rating of 40%. However, in 2010, when Hurt was running against incumbent Tom Perriello, the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters released television and radio ads against Hurt, attacking him on his previous votes to lift uranium-mining regulations in Virginia. The ads also pointed out that Hurt’s father is an investor in a uranium-mining company that had hoped to begin mining in Virginia. Hurt also received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from uranium-mining interest groups. Hurt strongly opposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2009 proposed “Cap-and Trade” climate control legislation. Hurt called on the Virginia Department of Interior secretary Ken Salazar to list bans on off-shore drilling and development.
Hurt lives in Chatham and is married to Kathryn Raine Heithaus. He has three sons, Charles, Clement and John. Hurt is a member of Chatham Presbyterian Church and Chatham Rotary Club. Also, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the New College Institute, the Virginia Bar Association’s Board of Governors, the state advisory board of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, the Hampden-Sydney Wilson Center Advisory Board, the John Marshall Foundation Board, the Board of Directors of Roman Eagle Nursing Home and the board of directors of the W. E. Skelton 4-H Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake. His brother, Charles Hurt, is the Washington bureau chief for the New York Post. Hurt gave the commencement address at Piedmont Virginia Community College in May 2011.
February 27, 2012