Rep. Cuellar, Cisneros locked in tight race in Texas runoff

May 23, 2022, 8:39 PM | Updated: May 24, 2022, 11:06 pm
FILE - U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, talks to a member of the media during a campaign event, o...

FILE - U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, talks to a member of the media during a campaign event, on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in San Antonio. Cuellar, a 17-year incumbent is facing a May 24, 2022, Democratic primary runoff against progressive Jessica Cisneros. (AP Photo/Eric Gay File)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, one of the only anti-abortion Democrats remaining in Congress, faced the toughest reelection fight of his career in a primary runoff against progressive Jessica Cisneros that could offer clues over how much abortion rights could animate voters in the 2022 midterms.

Early Wednesday, the race was too early to call. Cuellar was leading Cisneros by 175 votes, or 0.38 percentage points, out of 45,209 ballots counted as of 2 a.m. ET Wednesday. There likely remain a small number of absentee, provisional and late-arriving mail ballots left to count.

The winner will face Cassy Garcia, who won the Republican runoff for the seat.

Cuellar has come under increased attacks from abortion rights groups over his position in the weeks since a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion draft showed the justices are poised to overturn a constitutional right to abortion, which has been in place for 50 years. It would then be up to the states to regulate abortion, unless Congress codifies into law the right to abortion access.

In March, Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration attorney, forced the runoff after she came within 1,000 votes of Cuellar, a nine-term incumbent, in the primarily Hispanic district with a large Catholic population. Cuellar has received support from fellow Democrats in Congress, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“It is our fundamental freedoms on the line,” Cisneros told reporters last week. “I am more than happy to do what we can to make sure we are delivering on the promises Democrats successfully ran on in 2020.”

In the closing weeks, abortion rights groups poured money and resources on the ground and across TV in South Texas, where Cuellar has been in office for 17 years and beat Cisneros in the primary two years ago. Progressive leaders including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, have also come to Texas to campaign with Cisneros.

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

Cuellar came under scrutiny in January after FBI agents searched his house in the border city of Laredo as part of an investigation related to the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. His lawyer said last month that federal authorities informed him that Cuellar was not the target of the investigation. The FBI and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington had declined to comment.

Ocasio-Cortez slammed the House Democratic leadership for supporting Cuellar in the race.

“On the day of a mass shooting and weeks after news of Roe, Democratic Party leadership rallied for a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a close primary. Robocalls, fundraisers, all of it,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted late Tuesday. “Accountability isn’t partisan. This was an utter failure of leadership.”

But Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Cuellar has a better pulse on South Texas, where the GOP is taking a bigger swing in 2022 after decades of writing off the region as a Democratic stronghold.

The new optimism by Republicans along Texas’ border with Mexico comes after several counties showed a dramatic increase in support for GOP candidates in 2020.

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

___

Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the W...
Associated Press

From one July Fourth to the next, a steep slide for Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last Fourth of July, President Joe Biden gathered hundreds of people outside the White House for an event that would have been unthinkable for many Americans the previous year. With the coronavirus in retreat, they ate hamburgers and watched fireworks over the National Mall. Although the pandemic wasn’t over yet, Biden said, […]
5 hours ago
Chief Nurse Executive Danielle Maness stands in an empty examination room that was used to perform ...
Associated Press

After abortion ruling, clinic staff grapple with trauma

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Danielle Maness has squeezed the hands of hundreds of anxious patients lying on tables in the procedure room, now empty. She’s recorded countless vital signs and delivered scores of snacks to the recovery area, now silent. Peering into each darkened room at West Virginia ‘s only abortion clinic, the chief nurse […]
5 hours ago
FILE - Lina Khan, nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, speaks during a Senate ...
Associated Press

Ruling could dampen government efforts to rein in Big Tech

The Supreme Court’s latest climate change ruling could dampen efforts by federal agencies to rein in the tech industry, which went largely unregulated for decades as the government tried to catch up to changes wrought by the internet. In the 6-3 decision that was narrowly tailored to the Environmental Protection Agency, the court ruled Thursday […]
5 hours ago
In this photo provided by the Luhansk region military administration, damaged residential buildings...
Associated Press

Russia claims capture of pivotal city in eastern Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s defense minister said Russian forces took control Sunday of the last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine’s Luhansk province, bringing Moscow closer to its stated goal of seizing all of Ukraine’s Donbas region. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s troops together with members of a local separatist […]
5 hours ago
Associated Press

North Texas shooter kills 2, wounds 3 cops, takes own life

HALTOM CITY, Texas (AP) — A gunman killed two people and wounded four others, including three police officers, before taking his own life Saturday evening in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, police said. Haltom City Police Det. Matt Spillane said early Sunday that all of those wounded in the shooting in a residential neighborhood had non-life […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 file photo, Associated Press Special Regional Correspondent f...
Associated Press

Hope and despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan policeman opened fire on us with his AK-47, emptying 26 bullets into the back of the car. Seven slammed into me, and at least as many into my colleague, Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus. She died at my side. Anja weighed heavy against my shoulder. I tried to look […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Rep. Cuellar, Cisneros locked in tight race in Texas runoff