Incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar was already in the midst of a tight runoff in the 28th
Congressional District on the 24th of May however, his latest Supreme Court leak has brought
attention to one of his weaknesses in his history on abortion.
Cuellar who is a 9-term congressman and longtime fixture of the South Texas district is currently
the only remaining House Democrat with a record of having adopted anti-abortion stances.
Cuellar’s opponent, the liberal Jessica Cisneros, has blasted his position on the issue saying
she believes “he could very much be the deciding vote on the future of our reproductive rights
and we cannot afford to take that risk.”
Although Cisneros and her comrades have been working hard to make sure that the issue of
abortion rights influences the election but it’s still unclear how the issue will impact people’s
vote. Although Democratic strategists claim that the fight for rights to abortion has inspired a
section of the population, Cuellar — whose campaign hasn’t responded to a request to comment
has said that his views align with those of this district.
“If the opposition candidate is going to claim that we should remove him from office due to his in
favor of abortion I don’t believe that’s going to be a good idea. I don’t think that’s going to be the
main factor,” says state Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, an avid Cuellar supporter who is also a
representative of the district.
Cuellar is one of the few congressmen among Democrats who take a hardline policy regarding
abortion. In the past, Cuellar was the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health
Protection Act, legislation to codify the protections of Roe the Roe. Wade. Cuellar says that his
position on abortion hasn’t changed, however, he does say that he is against the ban on
abortion with no exclusions for rape, incest as well as a mother’s health.
The result of the race could give a glimpse of how the issue of the right to abortion inspires
Democratic voters. At the primaries in March, Cisneros and Cuellar were within two percentage
points from one another and a third candidate, Tannya Benavides, captured more than 5
percent of the votes.
“My sense is that it is pretty close,” says Matt Angle, a Texas Democratic strategist who isn’t
affiliated with either of the campaigns. “I believed for a time that Henry was in better form during
the runoff and it’s likely that he is. However, this Supreme Court leak did change the dynamic.
The leak could have exasperated her supporters a little.”
The right to abortion have inspired certain voters in the district
The 28th Congressional District has been blue for many years but it’s also more conservative in
social terms than the usual district progressives have targeted. President Joe Biden won the
newly drawn version of the district by only 7 points in the 2020 election as compared to, say, the
more than 60 percent that he was able to win for the Missouri district, where liberal Rep. Cori
Bush felled the incumbent for the second time in that.
A majority Latino district with a lot of Catholic voters, Texas 28th is a stretch of an area that is
more moderate than the San Antonio region to more moderate voter bases located in Laredo
along within the Rio Grande Valley. While these demographics might indicate that voters in the
district are anti-abortion Local political experts said to Vox that the views of those who support
reproductive rights within the district correspond to those of the state as a whole. Based on the
results of a survey conducted in April of 2022 by the University of Texas poll, Texas voters are
divided regarding the issue with a majority who consider themselves pro-abortion.
“They think that simply because they’re in South Texas and it’s Catholic that it’s a pro-life area.
Texas has a lot in common with national views and some places such as Laredo are
pro-choice,” states George Shipley, a longtime Democratic consultant in Texas who isn’t
associated with any political party.
Organizations and Democrats on the ground claim they’ve witnessed the leak of the Supreme
Court decision energize many voters, including young people and women. “I’m Catholic, and
yes I’m against abortion however, I’m in favor of women’s rights to decide. I’m sure what transpired has created a reaction that was not seen at the time of 2020,” states Sylvia Bruni who
is the chair of Webb County Democrats, who’s not associated with or supporting any candidate.
However, there’s no way to see if this outrage will translate into the polls. People who are older
and more conservative are more likely to support Cuellar and, generally, the most likely to
attend an election runoff. “There are lots of older people. Also, as you’ve heard when it comes to
runoffs, older people have a vote,” says Susan Korbel who is a member of the Bexar County
Blue Action Democrats and a candidate for the Bexar County commissioner seat, she’s not
backing any of the candidates.
In fact, as it is in all districts there are a few TX-28 residents who are voters who have a single
issue. It is clear that the voters are considering a variety of issues, like the cost of living and
employment as well as the right to abortion.
The result could reveal something about the political party’s future
The outcome of this election could send a powerful message regarding the power of the
progressive side of the party, and also the extent to the extent abortion rights are a major issue
for a lot of voters.
“If she wins, it’s going to send a message to every Democrat that thinks they can equivocate on
choice, that they can equivocate on women’s health, that they won’t be able to do that,” says
Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, the president of NextGen America and founder of an organization
that is statewide focused on mobilizing Latino voter turnout in Texas.
Other organizations such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Naral are working on
sending the message. They’ve mobilized extensively following the leak and have Naral
organizing four activists to the district, and also the launched a new ad on the internet. Cisneros
is also been calling for House members like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny
Hoyer, who back Cuellar to end their support for his pro-abortion views. However, they’ve said
that they are open to a wide variety of views within the Democratic caucus.
Progressives have been eyeing this district as a crucial area of focus since 2020 which is the
year that Cisneros finished close to 4-percentage points of Cuellar during the primaries.
Alongside the issue of abortion rights, Cisneros has sought to draw distinctions from Cuellar on
issues such as climate change, immigration, and corporate contributions.
A Cuellar loss would be significant considering how firmly rooted Cuellar is as an incumbent of
18 years in the district and an even longer time within the State. Before he was a member of the
House He was the Texas Secretary of State as well as State Representative, and the governor
has highlighted his leadership position in Congress as a major advantage to the district.
If her campaign succeeds, Cisneros would have to maintain her momentum through the
autumn. Since the district is moderate that is considered to be progressive, experts say an
independent candidate is likely to face a harder battle in a general election, as Republicans are trying to portray them as extreme. “I think the district is Democratic enough that Jessica can win,
but I don’t think they should take it for granted,” Angle says. Angle.
Cisneros has said that she’s focusing on outreach to districts during her campaign, in light of
concerns that the region is shifting to the right. “This area has been reliably Democratic for a
very long time,” she previously stated to Vox. “But this has also led to some incumbents to
consider this community to be a given. We’re offering a new idea of what South Texas can look