LAREDO, Texas (Border Report) — With less than 200 votes separating incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday in their Democratic primary runoff for Texas’ 28th Congressional District, the Cuellar campaign did not expect the election to be called until Wednesday.
A campaign staffer for Cuellar said the incumbent would not address campaign crowds unless there was a clear winner and all of the signs were taken down.
After polls closed, early voting results for Texas’ 28th Congressional District showed Cisneros with a slight lead, with most votes from Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.
Cisneros, who interned for Cuellar, won Bexar County during the March 1 primary election, but Cuellar won the border counties.
But by 9:30 p.m., Cuellar had won rural Jim Hogg County, as well as Starr County, on the Mexican border, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
And by 10 p.m. with all precincts reporting from Webb County, it appeared that Cuellar had doubled the votes Cisneros received in their hometown county of Webb, and that gave Cuellar a slight lead.
The watch party for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, was held at the Laredo Police Officers Union offices in Laredo, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)
At the watch party for Cuellar at the Laredo Police Officers Union, the mood was upbeat and the crowd included several community leaders.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said Cuellar is a powerful lawmaker who has helped to bring federal funds and attention to the South Texas border.
“We’re very fortunate to have Henry Cuellar here representing Laredo, and of course the entire region,” Saenz told Border Report. “We feel it’s going to be a victory for Henry Cuellar. We want him to win.”
Although Saenz admitted that Cuellar’s conservatism and moderate positions, which have helped him to get on the powerful House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, are some of the very reasons that he is a target.
“People sometimes criticize him because he’s been in Washington for too long but that’s what earned him seniority and a place in the Appropriations Committee and that’s really where all the monies are appropriated and this is where his region, and his area stands to benefit,” Saenz said.
Cisneros took aim at Cuellar recently for his anti-abortion views in light of leaked information that the Supreme Court could be planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. She also has criticized his support in past years for funding for the border wall.
Cuellar has accused Cisneros of wanting to defund border security and eliminate Border Patrol jobs.
The FBI raided Cuellar’s home and offices in Laredo just weeks prior to the March primary election but he has not been charged with anything and has publicly said he is “fully cooperating with law enforcement and committed to ensuring that justice and the law is upheld.”
Cisneros, 29, has said the district –which spans from San Antonio to Laredo and Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley — is in “need of change.”
Cisneros also was hosting a watch party in Laredo but was not speaking to media until a Wednesday morning press conference, according to her campaign staff.
This story will be updated throughout the evening.