Cuellar clinches 10th term in South Texas district

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, speaks during a campaign event, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in San Antonio. Cuellar, a 17-year incumbent and one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, is in his toughest reelection campaign, facing a May 24 primary runoff against progressive Jessica Cisneros. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar is projected to roll to victory on Tuesday in South Texas, securing a 10th term in a border district Republicans have targeted for years.

The Associated Press called the race shortly after midnight.

The centrist Blue Dog defeated Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in the 28th District of the Lone Star State, which borders Mexico for hundreds of miles. 

Garcia, who was part of a wave of conservative Hispanic women running for Congress this year, sought to make the contest a referendum on Democrats’ approach to crime, border security and economic mismanagement. 

But while that argument has resonated in other parts of the country, Cuellar’s moderate voting record — combined with a lengthy history of support for Border Patrol and heightened border security — appears to have insulated him from those attacks, at least for another two years. 

Indeed, Cuellar’s tougher challenge this year came from liberals in his own party, who have long criticized his conservative-leaning position on several hot-button social issues. Those concerns center around his opposition to abortion rights — a stance that came under heightened scrutiny this year following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade — and tough gun restrictions, including the assault weapons ban he voted against in July. 

Those positions have earned Cuellar a primary challenge in each of the last two cycles from a liberal former staffer, Jessica Cisneros, who came within 300 votes of defeating him this year. 

Cuellar’s reelection bid this cycle gained further attention when the FBI raided both his home and campaign office in January. Cuellar has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer has said he’s not under investigation.  

Through it all, Cuellar has maintained the vocal support of even the most liberal Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who has characterized him as a valued member of the big-tent Democratic Party. 

The contest has been closely watched all year for another reason: Former President Trump had gained support among Hispanic voters in South Texas in 2020, relative to his showing in 2016, alarming Democrats who have hoped that energizing those voters might someday turn Texas blue.

The trend seems to have affected Cuellar’s 28th District, which voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016 by almost a 20-point margin. Four years later, Biden would top Trump by less than 5 percentage points. 

Still, Cuellar was helped this year by redistricting, which turned the 28th District slightly in Democrats’ favor. Biden, under the new lines, would have carried the district in 2020 by 7 points. 

Tags 2022 midterms 2022 Midterms House Cassy Garcia Henry Cuellar Jessica Cisneros Ted Cruz Texas
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