Justice Democrats endorse primary challenge to Texas Dem Cuellar

Justice Democrats, a liberal advocacy group, endorsed a primary challenger to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) on Thursday.

Jessica Cisneros, an immigration and human rights attorney, criticized Cuellar's voting record and touted her own progressive positions in her launch video. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“Our congressman claims to be a Democrat, but he’s voted with Trump nearly 70 percent of the time,” Cisneros said. “He’s Trump’s favorite Democrat. Henry Cuellar voted to defund sanctuary cities and reproductive services for women’s health. He’s received an A rating from the NRA. And he’s accepted thousands of dollars from private prisons and the Koch brothers.”

Cisneros's campaign page notes her support for "Medicare for All," the Green New Deal and a $15 minimum wage. In the video, she also pledges not to take corporate PAC money for her campaign.

Justice Democrats made waves in the 2018 midterm elections by supporting now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-N.Y.) in her primary bid against 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).

“Justice Democrats is proud to announce Jessica Cisneros as our first 2020 candidate,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said in a statement Thursday. 

“She represents the voices we so desperately need in Congress right now—millennial, working-class, Latina, first-generation immigrant, and dedicating her life to giving back to her community.”

Cuellar's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the endorsement.

The group announced in January that Cuellar was their top target for the 2020 elections.

The moderate Texas lawmaker voted with President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE nearly 70 percent of the time in the 115th Congress, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Cuellar was one of three Democrats to side with Republicans on Kate's Law, a measure to expand maximum sentences for people who attempt to reenter the country after having been deported, and legislation to strip federal funding from “sanctuary” jurisdictions that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

He is also one of a small handful of Democrats in the House who have said they oppose abortion.

Cuellar's district went for Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE by 20 points in the 2016 presidential election and is rated solidly Democratic by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Justice Democrats' involvement in the race comes as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) pushes against primary challengers.

In March, the group warned would-be campaign vendors that the party wouldn't award contracts to political firms working for primary challengers. The decision has drawn significant backlash from progressive members of the party. 

"The DCCC is using financial leverage to try and stop leaders like Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president Pennsylvania candidate would be first autistic woman elected to a state legislature Pressley joins hundreds of activists calling for Kavanaugh impeachment: 'I believe in the power of us' MORE and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rising in the party through primary challenges," Rojas said in a statement at the time.