Cuellar narrowly defeats Cisneros in Texas House primary

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Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) was projected to win his closely watched primary against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros on Tuesday.

The Associated Press called the race on Tuesday evening after the Texas Democratic Party declared Cuellar the winner, following a recount that showed Cuellar leading by 289 votes.

That figure increased Cuellar’s lead by eight raw votes in the previously too-close-to-call race, with Cisneros losing two votes and Cuellar picking up six.

“As I said on election night, ‘the margin will hold’ — and it has not only held but grown,” Cuellar said in a statement.

Cisneros, who had requested the recount, conceded the race after the state party’s announcement.

“I am so grateful for the leap of faith so many of you took on this underdog race,” she wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to keep fighting for a more progressive and accountable Democratic Party and work to turn Texas blue in November.”

The Texas Democratic Party said in a statement declaring Cuellar the winner that both campaigns were provided the opportunity to send representatives to all of the recount sites.

“After a hard-fought primary battle, the voters of South Texas have spoken, and they have decided that Henry Cuellar will again represent them in Washington, continuing his work to lead the borderland and stand up for hard-working, middle-class families from Laredo to San Antonio,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa.

The primary campaign had turned into a clash between progressives and moderates, with Cisneros knocking Cuellar during the campaign for his more conservative views compared to other Democrats.

Cuellar is the only anti-abortion Democrat currently serving in the House, an ideological position that had put him increasingly at odds with his colleagues after a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked showing a majority was poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights.

Cisneros said despite the loss, her campaign had educated people that they deserve better than “the status quo.”

“With this close of a margin, it’s clear that without their aggressive interference in the lives of South Texas families, we would have won,” Cisneros said. “The biggest thing holding us back from pursuing the change we deserve is their fear. Fear of change, fear of the future.”

Cuellar had the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.). Both recorded robocalls for Cuellar and Clyburn attended an event in the district in the lead up to the primary.

But Cuellar had come under scrutiny earlier this year when his Texas home and campaign offices were raided by the FBI as a part of an investigation into U.S. businessmen and Azerbaijan. Cuellar and his attorney said he has been cleared of any wrongdoing and is not a part of any investigation.

With the primary now over, the race is expected to continue attracting attention. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the district as a “toss-up.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee has included the district on its target list, with GOP nominee Cassy Garcia in November hoping to flip the district.

Cuellar on Tuesday encouraged Democrats to “come together” and said he would not let “coastal elites bring their failed agenda” to the district.

“To those who did not vote for me, as your congressman I will continue to work diligently for you in Washington,” Cuellar said. “While we may differ on certain positions, we share a common ground on many issues to improve our communities and strengthen families.”

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