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U.S. House’s last pro-life Democrat, Texas’s Henry Cuellar, fighting to keep seat in Tuesday primary runoff
Challenger Jessica Cisneros wanted House Democratic leaders to rescind Cuellar endorsement; they refused
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LAREDO, Texas (CFP) — Amid the newly charged struggle over legal abortion in the United States, the last pro-life Democrat left in the House, Texas U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, will be fighting for his political life Tuesday in a Democratic primary runoff.
Cuellar is seeking his ninth term in the House against Jessica Cisneros, who is running against him from the left in South Texas’s 28th District with the support of such luminaries of the Democratic left as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But Cuellar has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chamber’s senior Democratic leadership, who rebuffed Cisneros’s demands to rescind their endorsements after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision indicating that the court is prepared to scuttle Roe vs. Wade, the 1972 decision that made abortion legal in the United States.
Cuellar has long opposed legal abortion and was the only Democrat to vote against a bill to codify Roe vs. Wade’s protections into federal law, which passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Cuellar has also been battling negative headlines after FBI agents searched his home and office in January as part of a probe related to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.
In the first round of voting in March, Cuellar defeated Cisneros by 1,000 votes but failed to get the majority he needed to avoid a runoff due to a third candidate in the race.
The district stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley and includes Laredo, where Cuellar has been a political powerhouse for decades.
In the March primary, Cisneros won the northern part of the district near San Antonio, but Cuellar rolled up large enough margins in rural areas further south to overtake her.
Cisneros, 28, an immigration attorney, challenged Cuellar in 2020 and came within 1,800 votes of unseating him. This time around, she has raised $4.4 million for the race, buoyed by support from groups supporting legal abortion. Cuellar has raised just $3 million, according to the latest Federal Elections Commission reports.
Republicans in the Texas legislature made the district more Republican during redistricting and are expected to make a run at flipping the seat this fall.
The Republican runoff features Cassy Garcia, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, facing off against Sandra Whitten, a church leader and wife of a Border Patrol agent who was the GOP nominee for the seat in 2020.
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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Incumbents Henry Cuellar, Van Taylor forced into runoffs
Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw crushes opponents angry over his criticism of Donald Trump
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
AUSTIN (CFP) – Two incumbent Texas U.S. House members, Democrat Henry Cuellar and Republican Van Taylor, have been forced into primary election runoffs after narrowly failing to gain outright majorities in Tuesday’s primary.
In District 28 in South Texas, Cuellar has an 800-vote lead over Laredo immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, in a rematch of their 2020 contest. They will face each other again May 24, after neither cleared 50%.
In District 3 in suburban Dallas, Taylor –- under fire from Donald Trump supporters for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol – came in 48.7% in a race against four challengers.
However, a day after the primary, Taylor withdrew from the race after admitting to an extramarital affair, which will give the nomination to the second place finisher, former Collin County Judge Keith Self.
In other U.S. House races Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw survived a challenge from primary opponents upset over his criticism of Trump. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL seen as one of the party’s rising stars since his election in 2018, took 75% to crush three opponents in District 2 in suburban Houston.
In District 8 in suburban Houston, Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy who had the backing of Republican leaders in Washington, won 53% in the GOP primary to avoid a runoff.
The contest had been seen as a proxy fight over the future direction of the party between Luttrell and Christian Collins, a political consultant and podcaster who was backed by far-right voices in the House Freedom Caucus. In the end, Luttrell beat Collins by more than 30 points.
In District 28, which stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the U.S.-Mexico border, Cuellar took 48.5% of the vote to 45.6% for Cisneros.
Cisneros is running with strong backing of luminaries on the Democratic left in her bid to unseat the more conservative Cuellar, who opposes gun control and is the last pro-life Democrat left in the House.
While Cisneros swept the more urban parts of the district, Cuellar rolled in rural areas and in Laredo, where he has been a political fixture for decades. He went ahead when results from Starr County were finally reported early Wednesday, where he took 70% of the vote.
Cuellar is also running under the shadow of a January FBI raid on his home and office, related to an investigation of donations connected to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Republicans, buoyed by Trump’s strong showing among Hispanic voters in South Texas in 2020, have targeted the district as a pick-up opportunity.
The Republican race is headed to a runoff between Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, and Sandra Whitten, who was the party’s nominee for the seat in 2020.
In Dallas, the Democratic race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in District 30 is headed to a runoff between State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who took 48%, and Jane Hope Hamilton, a former congressional aide who served as state director for the Biden campaign in 2020, who took 17%.
The winner is likely headed to Congress from the heavily Democratic district. Johnson has endorsed Crockett as her successor.
In Austin, in the Democratic primary for the open District 35 seat, Austin City Councilman Greg Casar won the race without a runoff, making him the favorite to win in November in the heavily Democratic district.