Cuellar, Cisneros runoff in Texas remains too early to call

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas primary runoff between Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and his progressive challenger, Jessica Cisneros, remained too early to call Friday.

Cuellar led Cisneros by 175 votes, or 0.4 percentage points, out of 45,209 ballots counted as of 3 p.m. ET Friday.

Election officials in Bexar County, where Cisneros has a significant lead over Cuellar among ballots counted, said they will not release results of an undisclosed number of ballots that require voters to cure an issue preventing it from being counted until Tuesday.

In March, Cisneros, an immigration attorney, forced the runoff after she came within 1,000 votes of Cuellar, a nine-term incumbent, in the primarily Hispanic district with a large Catholic population.

The 29-year-old Cisneros, who was an intern in Cuellar’s Washington office in 2014, had also challenged Cuellar in 2020, losing to him by just 4 percentage points.

In the closing weeks of the race, abortion rights groups poured money and resources on the ground and across TV in South Texas after a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court signaled that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion a constitutional right was on the verge of being overturned. Cisneros supports abortion rights, while Cuellar is one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress.

Despite Cuellar’s stance on abortion, unapologetic defense of gun rights and support of the oil and gas industry, he had the backing of many fellow Democrats in Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York slammed their decision to boost Cuellar, calling it an “utter failure of leadership.”

“The last time leadership waded in to save him, he thanked them by obstructing the party’s signature legislation, paving the way for the child tax credit to collapse and imperiling millions while taking a victory lap for it,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Wednesday.

Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had traveled to Texas to campaign with Cisneros.

That made the runoff another test of whether progressives could topple other moderate, establishment-oriented candidates. In Oregon, seven-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate, was ousted from Congress by his progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner in a primary held last week.

The winner of Texas’ race will face Cassy Garcia, who won the Republican runoff for the seat.