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House’s Last Pro-Life Democrat Is on the Ropes

Rep. Henry Cuellar faces close primary battle against AOC-backed progressive

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) / Getty Images
• March 2, 2022 1:10 pm

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The last pro-life Democrat in the House of Representatives is in danger of losing his primary against a 28-year-old "Squad"-backed candidate.

After failing to receive a majority of the vote in Tuesday's primary, Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas) will head to a runoff election against Jessica Cisneros, a liberal immigration attorney who challenged his seat in 2020 and lost by fewer than 3,000 votes. Cuellar received just 48 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, while Cisneros pulled in 47 percent.

Cuellar was the only Democrat to vote against the Women's Health Protection Act, which passed the House in September and would repeal all abortion restrictions nationwide. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) was his party's lone "no" vote when the bill on Monday failed to advance in the Senate.

Cisneros has criticized Cuellar's pro-life stance and made clear her unapologetic support for unrestricted abortion access. Cisneros, who interned for Cuellar in 2014, is endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), and other progressive lawmakers.

Cuellar's home and campaign office were raided in January by the FBI in an investigation reportedly linked to the former Soviet state Azerbaijan and several U.S. businessmen. It is unclear if Cuellar is the focus of the investigation. He has denied all wrongdoing and has not faced any charges.

Cuellar has represented Texas's 28th Congressional District since 2005 and has gained a reputation for his moderate to conservative stances on issues such as abortion, guns, and border security. Cuellar has criticized the Biden administration's handling of the southern border, which includes parts of his district.