Justice Democrats Announce Campaign to Unseat Texas Democrat

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee that helped recruit and elect Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), announced Friday it had selected its first Democrat to unseat in the 2020 elections.

In a tweet Friday morning, Justice Democrats took aim at Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas). The post noted Cueller has voted with President Donald Trump "69% of the time," and has taken conservative positions on a number of issues. Cuellar is one of the few House Democrats praised by gun rights and pro-life organizations.

Justice Democrats criticized Cuellar for "[f]undrais[ing] for the GOP." In September of last year, Cuellar supported a fundraiser for Rep. John Carter (R., Texas) in a close raise against a Democrat.

In July 2014, Cuellar raised alarm that President Barack Obama's administration was not taking the border crisis seriously. In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Cuellar worried that the government was moving too slowly on responding to border security. "The administration should have been ready," he said. "With all due respect to the administration, they're one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago."

Now, with the new White House occupant supporting stronger border security measures, Cuellar opposes a border wall and denies the existence of an immigration crisis.

Texas' 28th Congressional District, represented by Cuellar, covers an area just east of San Antonio and stretches southwest to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cuellar is a leader of the Blue Dogs Coalition, a group of lawmakers in the House who identify as centrist Democrats. In previous elections, some in his coalition have worried about the Democratic Party apparatus turning against the incumbent in favor of a more progressive challenger.

Now, Justice Democrats are preparing to threaten Cuellar's seat once again. The organization rolled out a "primary Cuellar fund" to help recruit and equip a prospective challenger.

Cuellar's insufficiently progressive voting record promises to feature prominently in the primary elections for the Democratic Party's nominee in the district. The 28th, first formed in 1993, has never been represented by a Republican.

Ocasio-Cortez became the face of the insurgent movement after defeating Joe Crowley, a longtime Democratic congressman, in the 2018 midterms. Her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, confirmed during the campaign that internecine Democratic primaries are a necessary part of their vision. "We’ve got to primary folks," she said.

Cuellar has not lost an election since winning the seat in 2005, but has fended off a number of primary challengers. "They came after me twice, and I beat ’em," Cuellar told the Washington Post in March 2018. "LBJ used to say: What’s the difference between a cannibal and a liberal Democrat? Cannibals don’t eat their own."

Mikhael Smits

Mikhael Smits   Email Mikhael | Full Bio | RSS
Mikhael Smits is a Public Interest Fellow and Media Analyst at the Washington Free Beacon. He's interested in law, security policy, and today's outrage. Reach him on Twitter @mikhaelsmits or smits@freebeacon.com.

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