Cuellar and Cisneros stranded in close second-round race at Texas | Government and politics


By ACACIA CORONADO – Reporting for America/Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, one of the only anti-abortion Democrats remaining in Congress, faced the toughest re-election fight of his career on Tuesday in a runoff against the progressive Jessica Cisneros who could offer clues as to how much abortion rights might drive voters in the 2022 midterm elections.

Towards the end of Tuesday, the race was neck and neck, with the two heads swapping several times. The winner will face Cassy Garcia, who won the Republican runoff for the seat.

Cuellar came under increasing attacks from abortion rights groups on her stance in the weeks after a leaked US Supreme Court draft opinion showing the justices are set to strike down a 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion . It would then be up to the states to regulate abortion, unless Congress codifies the right of access to abortion into law.

In March, Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration lawyer, forced the second round after came to less than 1,000 votes de Cuellar, a nine-term holder, in the mostly Hispanic district with a large Catholic population. Cuellar a received support from fellow Democrats in Congressincluding United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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“It’s our basic freedoms that are at stake,” Cisneros told reporters last week. “I’m more than happy to do what we can to make sure we deliver on the promises Democrats successfully delivered in 2020.”

In recent weeks, abortion rights groups have been pouring money and resources on the ground and through television in South Texas, where Cuellar has served for 17 years and has beaten Cisneros in the primaries two years ago. Progressive leaders including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also came to Texas to campaign with Cisneros.

This made the runoff another test of whether progressives can topple other moderate, establishment-oriented candidates. Cuellar’s unabashed defense of gun rights and his support for the oil and gas industry, which is a major employer in his district that stretches from San Antonio to the border with Mexico, are also out of step with many Democrats. The runoff came on the same day an 18-year-old gunman killed at least 19 children at an elementary school in a nearby neighborhood of Cuellar.

Cuellar came under intense scrutiny in January after FBI agents searched his home in the border town of Laredo as part of an investigation linked to the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. His attorney said last month that federal authorities had informed him that Cuellar was not the target of the investigation. The FBI and a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington declined to comment.

Ocasio-Cortez criticized the House Democratic leadership for backing Cuellar in the race.

“On the day of a mass shooting and weeks after Roe’s announcement, the Democratic Party leadership rallied behind a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a tight primary. Robocalls, fundraisers, all that,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday night. “Accountability is not partisan. It was a total failure of leadership.

But Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Cuellar has a better pulse in South Texas, where the GOP is gaining more momentum in 2022 after decades of delisting the region as a Democratic stronghold.

The newfound optimism among Republicans along Texas’ border with Mexico comes after several counties showed dramatic increases in support for GOP candidates in 2020.

“What progressives in Washington, D.C. don’t understand is that a lot of our Hispanic population in South Texas is pretty conservative, sort of culturally,” Cornyn said. last week. “And I think Henry fits that neighborhood very well, that temperament and that attitude.”

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