AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A recount in Texas affirmed Democrat U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar as the winner Tuesday of his primary race against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros, who had trailed by fewer than 200 votes following a runoff in May.
Cuellar, a nine-term congressman, defeated Cisneros by 289 votes, according to the results of the recount announced by the Texas Democratic Party.
The Associated Press had not previously declared a winner in the race because it had been too close to call.
It is the second time that Cisneros, a 29-year-old immigration attorney who once interned for Cuellar, has lost a challenge to her former boss, whose moderate record along Texas' heavily Hispanic southern border has aligned him at times with Republicans on issues including abortion and guns.
This time Cisneros got even closer than in 2020, when she lost by 4 percentage points behind national support from the party's progressive leaders, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. They endorsed her again in the rematch along with abortion-rights groups that swooped into the race as the U.S. Supreme Court signaled it might overturn Roe v. Wade.
“With this close of a margin, it’s clear that without their aggressive interference in the lives of South Texas families, we would have won,” Cisneros said. “The biggest thing holding us back from pursuing the change we deserve is their fear. Fear of change, fear of the future. But the only way you defeat fear is with courage and determination that in the richest nation in the world, we all deserve to thrive.”
Cuellar is one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress and has also bucked the party for years over his support of gun rights and a tougher stance on immigration. But he still kept the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership.
“To those who did not vote for me, as your congressman I will continue to work diligently for you in Washington,” Cuellar said. “While we may differ on certain positions, we share a common ground on many issues to improve our communities and strengthen families.”
Cuellar will face Republican Cassy Garcia in November in a district that remains favorable to Democrats, But the GOP has growing confidence in South Texas, a longtime Democratic stronghold, after Republican Mayra Flores flipped an open congressional seat in a special election Tuesday.