Texas Dem Rep. Cuellar increases lead against Justice Democrat-backed candidate who may seek recount
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Incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is 281 votes ahead of his Democratic primary challenger with every vote counted in the fight for a nomination for the House.
Cuellar, who faced off against Justice Democrats-endorsed Jessica Cisneros in a tight runoff election that has been too close to call for weeks, says his lead expanded as the votes were counted.
“As I said on election night, the margin will hold — and it has not only held but grown,” Cuellar said in a statement shared with Fox News.
“With every single vote counted across the nine counties in the 28th district, I have won this election by 281 votes.”
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The Associated Press has not called the race for Cuellar, but each county in the district has submitted its results. And the Texas Democratic Party plans to deliver the final vote tally Monday. Cisneros would have until Wednesday to request a recount if she supplies the funding to do so, however, and Democrats have been raising money for a “recount fund” for Cisneros this week.
After the May 24 primary runoff election, Cuellar led Cisneros by 177 votes to secure the Democratic nomination and confidently asserted the margin would hold.
“This election is still too close to call, and we are still waiting for every ballot and eligible vote to be counted,” Cisneros said that night.
“This fight isn’t over,” Cisneros tweeted at the time.
Cuellar, who has served in Congress since 2005, congratulated Cisneros on “a hard-fought race.”
“From the time she was an intern in my office, I knew she had potential and a bright future ahead of her,” Cuellar said. Cisneros previously challenged Cuellar, who has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and much of the Democratic leadership, but lost in the 2020 Texas primary.
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In an interview with Fox News Digital, Cuellar criticized the outside interests that he says propped up progressive Cisneros’ campaigns.
“I’m one of the best fundraisers in Washington, and she outraised me. In ordinary times, that wouldn’t have happened,” Cuellar said, pointing out that 99% of Cisneros’ financial support came from outside the Texas district.
“Over the course of the last two elections, radical special interest groups spent over $10 million in an attempt to push their out-of-touch, New York values on Texans. But you, the voters, stopped them,” Cuellar said in his statement.
Cuellar is one of the last pro-life Democrats in the House and has been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border crisis and rising inflation and promised to fight to protect oil and gas jobs and to lower taxes and the cost of health care.
Cisneros ran on a platform of progressive politics, promoting a pro-union message.
“It took me having to be in Congressman Cuellar’s office to find out he was anti-labor, to find out he was anti-choice, to find out he had lobbyist after lobbyist go through his office and never host families that looked like me in Washington D.C. I even found out he was anti-immigrant,” Cisneros said at a campaign stop with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., days before the runoff election.
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The race between Cuellar and Cisneros gained more attention after a leaked Supreme Court opinion indicated Roe v. Wade could be overruled, placing abortion access up to state legislatures instead of having the practice protected by the judiciary as a constitutional right.
With a thin margin of a couple of hundred votes, however, Cisneros message appears to have resonated with many Democrats in Cuellar’s district.
“Urban Democrats are very different from rural Democrats,” Cuellar told Fox News. He said Cisneros’ positions on immigration, against oil and gas, on reducing police budgets and other leftist policies alienated many residents of the border areas.
Of the nine counties in his district, the six closest to the border overwhelmingly supported Cuellar in the runoff, while Democrats closer to San Antonio voted for Cisneros.
“The more liberal Democrats are found in the urban areas, where the issue of abortion definitely helped her more in that area,” Cuellar said.
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“All we did was just bring up the fact that she was for open borders, for defunding the police. I think people in South Texas along the border understood that was not the type of position that was accepted down here,” he said.
Cuellar — or Cisneros, if she requests and prevails in a recount — will face Republican candidate Cassy Garcia in November as the GOP hopes to retake the majority in the House. Abortion and gun control are major issues for Democrats, but Cuellar says voters will balance all those issues with the economy and inflation.
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“Jobs are still very important, but for some people, gun control will be an issue. For other people, the abortion issue will be very important. I think in my district, really it’s a cross section of the community. There are other issues, border security, jobs, water issues — all of that is important,” Cuellar said.