Updated Mar 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Incumbent Cuellar leads AOC-backed Cisneros in Texas district

Jessica Cisneros is facing off against Henry Cuellar in a South Texas Democratic congressional primary
Combination images of Jessica Cisneros, left, Democratic U.S. House candidate for Texas, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. Photos: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

An embattled South Texas congressman holds a narrow lead over a progressive backed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as vote-counting winds down early Wednesday in a closely watched Democratic primary race.

Driving the news: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, has a 50% to 45.4% lead over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney, with more than 99% of the votes counted in Texas' 28th congressional district.

  • A third candidate has taken just shy of 5% of the vote — and if no candidate tops 50%, the top two vote-getters head to a runoff.
  • The Associated Press overnight Tuesday declared that Cuellar and Cisneros were headed to a runoff.

Why it matters: Cisneros' campaign became a cause among the Democrats' progressive wing as it sought to shift the politics of the party.

  • Ocasio-Cortez flew to Texas in February to rally for Cisneros.
  • Greg Casar, another AOC-backed candidate, won his Democratic primary for an open, heavily Democratic congressional seat that runs from Austin to San Antonio.
  • Of note: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also came to Texas in February to rally for Casar and Cisneros.

Yes, but: Cuellar had a deep South Texas organization — though he grew especially vulnerable after the FBI raided his home in January and a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for records regarding work the congressman may have performed for foreign governments.

What's next: Long reliably Democratic, the 28th congressional district was recently redrawn by Texas lawmakers to make it more competitive for Republicans.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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