Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas is the lone anti-abortion Democrat left in the U.S House of Representatives. He has survived challenges from the left over the years because of his strong ties to his border district, and his appeal among constituents who share his more moderate approach. But with the Supreme Court now poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, progressives feel they have their best chance yet to defeat him.
Voters in the south Texas district will head to the polls Tuesday to choose between Cuellar and his liberal challenger, Jessica Cisneros. The contest is a runoff after neither candidate broke the 50% threshold needed to win outright in March. The race figures to test the strength of the abortion rights movement among more conservative Latino voters.
Cuellar, who was the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act, maintains support from party leadership, despite calls from Cisneros to pull their support. Days after the draft Roe decision leaked, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina went to Texas to campaign with Cuellar.
“I do not agree with Henry Cuellar on everything,” Clyburn said, referring to Cuellar’s stance on abortion. “We need to sit down with people who we do not agree with and try to find common ground, to do what is necessary to move this country forward.”
But Cisneros has brought out some progressive supporters as well: Sen. Bernie Sanders came to San Antonio to campaign for her on Friday, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came before the primary.
“If you believe, as the vast majority of American people do, that it is women who should control their bodies and not the government, then this election is very important,” Sanders told CBS San Antonio affiliate KENS 5 before the rally with Cisneros.
South Texas has been a longtime haven for Democrats, but it’s one of the areas with a major Latino population that has seen Republicans gain significant ground in recent years. That trend seems to be helping Cuellar’s electability pitch in the primary, ahead of what is expected to be a dismal midterm year for Democrats. He led with 48.4% in the March primary, while Cisneros received 46.9%.
Cisneros and her supporters see the news over abortion as something to change the dynamic in the race.
“On May 24th, we will defeat the last anti-choice Democrat and South Texas will finally have a representative in their corner that will fight for their health care and freedom,” she said in a statement on May 4.
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