Jun 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Cuellar's razor-thin primary lead goes to recount

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas). Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Rep. Henry Cuellar's (D-Texas) progressive primary opponent is requesting a recount after the centrist Texas congressman finished ahead by just 281 votes.

Why it matters: The nationally watched primary runoff between Cuellar and attorney Jessica Cisneros is a key battle in a nationwide struggle between progressives and more establishment Democrats for the soul of their party.

  • The race took on increased national significance after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, with Cuellar's pro-life views coming under intense scrutiny.

What they're saying: "With just under 0.6 percent of the vote symbolizing such stark differences for the future in South Texas, I owe it to our community to see this through to the end," Cisneros said in a statement.

  • Under Texas election law, a recount can be requested if the leading candidate's margin of victory is less than 10% of the votes they received.

The other side: Cuellar already declared victory last week. "I'd like to congratulate Jessica on a hard-fought race and wish her nothing but the best in the future," he said in a statement.

The context: Cuellar entered this cycle as one of the most vulnerable incumbents to a primary challenge after Cisneros came within four points of him in 2020.

  • He was further endangered by an FBI raid of his house in February, shortly before the blanket primary in which he and Cisneros advanced to a runoff.
  • The race was a clear clash between progressives and the establishment; Cisneros was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the "Squad," while Cuellar had the support of the top three Democrats in House leadership.

Reality check: Recounts are rarely successful in changing the outcome of an election. Just three of the 27 statewide recounts between 2000 and 2015 resulted in a different winner, according to FiveThirtyEight.

  • However, the average swing was 282 votes.
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