May 25, 2022
Clinging to a lead of fewer than 180 votes, nine-term Rep. Henry Cuellar declared victory early Wednesday in the closely watched Democratic primary runoff for Texas' 28th Congressional District as Jessica Cisneros, his progressive challenger, said the contest remained too close to officially call.
Cuellar, an anti-abortion Democrat with ties to the fossil fuel industry, currently leads Cisneros by a reported margin of 22,694 votes to 22,517, less than a percentage point.
But Cisneros, a human rights attorney backed by prominent progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups, wrote in the early hours of Wednesday morning that "this election is still too close to call, and we are still waiting for every ballot and eligible vote to be counted."
"Thank you to every single voter that came out to support our campaign," wrote Cisneros. "This fight isn't over."
Despite his right-wing policy positions and voting record on climate, abortion, immigration, and gun control--he has received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association--Cuellar enjoyed the unwavering support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the top three Democrats in the U.S. House.
Pelosi, who helped push Cuellar over the finish line in his first contest against Cisneros two years ago, recorded a robocall for the 2022 primary describing the Texas incumbent as "a fighter for hard-working families"--even as he opposes House Democrats' flagship labor rights bill and a $15 federal minimum wage.
Cuellar specifically expressed gratitude to Clyburn, who campaigned for the right-wing Democrat in the final stretch of the runoff race, which saw billionaire-funded super PACs such as AIPAC's United Democracy Project spend heavily against Cisneros. Cuellar's fossil fuel industry allies also pumped money into the race.
"This primary was a hard-fought battle and I'd like to thank my supporters, who were instrumental in this victory," said Cuellar, who will face Republican Cassie Garcia if his lead holds. "And of course, I could not do this without the tireless support of my wife and daughters. I also want to thank Whip Clyburn for his steadfast support."
Earlier this month, following the leak of a draft opinion indicating that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, Cisneros called on Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn to drop their support for Cuellar, who has been described as one of the last remaining anti-abortion Democrats in Congress. The Democratic leaders refused to do so despite publicly touting the importance of electing pro-choice lawmakers.
Cuellar's position on gun control also came under renewed scrutiny following the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday.
Cuellar has previously refused to return NRA donations in the wake of mass shootings.
"If Cuellar pulls this out," The American Prospect's Alex Sammon wrote sardonically, "national Democrats can be proud that their exceptional efforts and first action in the wake of this shooting in Uvalde that has killed at least 19 children will be to send a politician from the region with an 'A' rating from the NRA back to Congress."
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