Tuesday's TX-28 primary runoff is far from over. There are still votes to be counted (and recounted, considering the mind-boggling degree of systemic corruption in Webb, Zapata and Starr counties). 175 votes separate Blue Dog scumbag Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisernos. The Republicans also feel than can make a play for the district and a former Ted Cruz staffer, Cassy Garcia, won the GOP primary runoff Tuesday night. There were 14,893 Republicans voting. 45,209 Democrats voted.
On Wednesday, many members of Congress were talking among themselves about how the role of Democratic House leadership in the race-- particularly from Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn, Hakeem Jeffries and Steny Hoyer-- has made it clearer than ever that a new leadership team is needed, no matter what the outcome of the midterms are next year. "I think I read it on your blog last week," one member told me. "The shelf life of Pelosi, Steny and Clyburn expired a couple cycles ago... We need them to retire gracefully."
"The establishment wing of the Democratic is an absolute horrorshow right now," said Jason Call, a progressive Democrat in Washington who isn't in Congress yet hopefully will be after he beats corrupt New Dem Rick Larsen in November. "Not only Pelosi stumping for anti-abortion pro-NRA corporatist Henry Cuellar but the historic sentiment on the part of Pelosi and Biden and the old guard that 'we need a strong Republican Party.' We see Biden waxing poetic about his relationship with segregationist Strom Thurmond and despite all the things we know about how egregiously oppressive policing is in America, his answer is to dump more money into a bad system. And despite progressives offering very real solutions to problems of climate change, healthcare, housing, and education, the profit margins of the donors that the establishment works for seem to be the only thing that counts. The only thing it leaves me thinking is, why do they hate their grandchildren?"
Writing for The Hill last night, Julia Manchester reported that the anger from progressives is boiling over. She quoted a tweet from AOC: "On the day of a mass shooting and weeks after news of Roe, Democratic Party leadership rallied for a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a close primary. Robocalls, fundraisers, all of it." The sentiment is widespread, even if few have the cajones to say it out loud.
As of Wednesday morning, Cuellar led Cisneros by just 177 votes, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. Cuellar declared victory in the early hours of Wednesday, but Cisneros has not conceded.
Cuellar thanked Clyburn “for his steadfast support” in his statement claiming victory on Wednesday.
Even if Cuellar wins, the closeness of the results so far can be seen as a win for Cisneros, who closed the gap with Cuellar after challenging him two years ago. In 2020, Cuellar defeated Cisneros by more than 2,000 votes.
“With a margin this small, it’s clear that a pro-choice, anti-NRA Democrat could have easily won if it wasn’t for the full-throated support of Speaker Pelosi and the party establishment in Washington for anti-choice, pro-NRA Henry Cuellar,” said Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats. “But right now the election is still too close to call.”
Moderates have cautioned that Cuellar, who has already been elected by the 28th Congressional District nine times, could be their best chance at holding the seat in a difficult election year.
[NOTE: The new district lines have the partisan lean moving from D+4 to D+7.]
But progressives argue he is beholden to special interests that are out of touch with his constituents.
“They aligned themselves with AIPAC, Big Oil, gun manufacturers, and the Koch brothers to support a man who consistently undermines our party and sent a signal to voters that incumbency is more important than Democratic values,” said Sawyer Hackett, senior communications strategist at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Progressives, including Cisneros, have also knocked Cuellar for his more conservative views on issues like abortion. And the incumbent congressman came under fire earlier this year when his Texas home and campaign offices were raided by the FBI as a part of an investigation into U.S. businessmen and Azerbaijan. Cuellar and his attorney say he has been cleared of any wrongdoing and is not a part of any investigation. The Justice Department has not commented on the matter.
Joseph Geevarghese, the executive director of Our Revolution, went further, accusing Democrats in Washington of turning their backs on working families.
“Democratic leadership and countless corporate interests poured endless fundraising support into the incumbent’s campaign to fit their uninspiring, anti-progress mold,” Geevarghese said in a statement to The Hill. ”It’s time for Washington to wake up and recognize that working families want a progressive agenda.”
However, establishment Democratic allies are rejecting those points, arguing that it’s a majority of voters, not lawmakers from outside of the district, that have the power to decide the election.
His establishment Democratic allies are lying. It's almost impossible to beat an incumbent with the kind of money Cuellar's corrupt funders threw into the race. That Cisneros managed statistical tie against his shady Machine and that kind of cash is breathtaking. Although the figures haven't been updated since May 4-- and AIPAC and Mellman's DMFI are know to spend biggest in the last 10 days of campaigns, by May 4 conservative SuperPACs had already spent $1.4 million smearing Cisneros and $1.5 million making up utter nonsense about what a champion of progressive values and policies Cuellar is. Looking through FEC.gov from May 4 til May 20, the most recent update-- so there will be much more to find-- AIPAC's United Democracy Project alone spent an additional $700,000 attacking Cisneros.
UPDATE From San Diego
The progressive candidate taking on corrupt New Dem Juan Vargas this cycle is Joaquin Vazquez. This morning, he told me that "The previous two election cycles have seen the left increase it's numbers in Congress, challenging the establishment at every turn and changing the national conversation to prioritize things like Medicare For All, a Green New Deal, taxing the rich and student debt cancellation. Issues that scare the hell out of corporations that will see profits take a nose dive when passed. It makes sense to see these same corporations lobbying House Democratic leadership nonstop, with millions in contributions to conservative Democratic incumbents through political action committees like AIPAC, New Democrat Coalition, and the Blue Dog PAC. Pelosi's goal is not to ensure that voters elect who they believe could best represent them, but to secure their hold on power in Congress by stopping the election of more progressives. We do need new leadership in the House of Representatives, but seeing how the vast majority of voters support progressive policies like Medicare For All, the new leader must be someone much to the left of the current leadership. This can only happen with more progressives in Congress."