The Morning After In South Texas: TX-28 Still Too Close To Call
Before dawn this morning, with around 95% of the votes in TX-28, yesterday's primary runoff is still too close to call, about 175 votes separating corrupt reactionary incumbent Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros. It's not likely the victor will be known for a few days-- and there will certainly be a recount after that. If Cuellar winds up defeated, he will be the third Blue Dog to go down so far this cycle, Kurt Schrader (OR) last week and Caolyn Bourdeaux (GA) last night.
Based in DC, Ben Samuels covers American politics for Haaretz. Yesterday, he presented the TX-28 runoff as a proxy war between progressives and oligarchs, fronted by Bernie and J PAC on one hand and on AIPAC and the Republican wing of the Democratic Party on the other. He noted that the contest, in a district with very few Jews, "marks the latest fight between segments of the U.S. Jewish community." He wrote that AIPAC’s super PAC has invested at least $1.8 million of their Republican money in favor of Cuellar, an AIPAC ally who is also an anti-Choice fanatic with the most Republican voting record of any Democrat in the House. Samuels' numbers, however, are very outdated and AIPAC has just about doubled them in the last few days. more on that below.
Samuels wrote that "The Democratic leadership’s support of Cuellar has come under scrutiny following the recent leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1972. Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries have continued to endorse Cuellar, despite his status as the sole anti-choice Democrat in the House. Cuellar, who is not Jewish, made headlines earlier this year as a co-founder of the Congressional Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values, to 'protect Torah values and freedom of religion, while fighting antisemitism and hatred.' He noted the caucus would be 'committed to combating anti-Israel bigotry and protecting the Jewish community’s values and right to worship freely.' Leading Jewish organizations roundly dismissed it as a misguided effort in the fight against antisemitism, though, criticizing its apparent disregard for the separation of church and state, and Cuellar’s lack of consultation with American-Jewish figures." At least he didn't blow a shofar, the way another notorious right-wing goofball did.
As of May 4, Cuellar had spent $3,542,231 to Jessica's $2,996,438. They both had over a million left in their campaign war chests. The big independent spends against Cisneros and for Cuellar in the district as of May 4 were:
AIPAC's Republican-funded United Democracy Project- $1,849,606
So-called Mainstream Democrats Silicon Valley oligarch-funded conservative SuperPAC- $751,444
Conservative outfit America United- $240,632
Since then AIPAC dumped another $1.4 million into smearing Jessica and bolstering Cuellar (as of this past weekend). Yesterday, Judd Legum wrote that "Since the March primary, an odd coalition of Super PACs, backed by a handful of very wealthy people, have spent millions on dishonest and misleading advertisements promoting Cuellar and attacking Cisneros."
A Super PAC called Mainstream Democrats was established on February 10, 2022. The group's barebones website says it "was founded as the only Democratic group with the courage to consistently defend mainstream Democrats and defeat extreme candidates whose stated goal is 'to overthrow' the Democratic Party."
Is Cuellar a mainstream Democrat? Cuellar opposes abortion rights but a recent poll found that 80% of Democrats think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 93% of Democrats oppose overturning Roe. Cuellar also received an "A" rating from the NRA, an organization that adamantly opposes stricter gun laws, and 81% of Democrats support stricter gun laws.
Nevertheless, in May, Mainstream Democrats spent over $750,000 in ads supporting Cuellar. These ads are designed to make Cuellar seem "mainstream" by misleading voters. For example, one ad by Mainstream Democrats bemoans that "women's rights [are] under attack by extremists" and claims that "Democrat Henry Cuellar makes it clear that he opposes a ban on abortion."
As proof of that claim, the ad cites a May 4 article published by U.S. News and World Report, which in turn cites a press release by the Cuellar campaign. In that press release Cuellar clearly states that he "does not support abortion" and favors a total ban with narrow exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother.
Major contributors to Mainstream Democrats include Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, who donated $500,000 to the group. Another major contributor is Deborah Simon, heir to a shopping mall fortune, who donated $250,000. Simon is known as an adamant supporter of abortion rights and a significant donor to Planned Parenthood.
Mainstream Democrats spending on the race has been dwarfed by spending from United Democracy Project, a new Super PAC created by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The name of the group, United Democracy Project, is ironic since AIPAC has endorsed 109 Republican members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
...None of these ads, however, mention Israel. Several ads, however, contain misleading attacks.
One of the ads, for example, claims that Cisneros is "backed by groups" that support "cutting police spending." On the screen, however, only the words "Jessica Cisneros" and "cut police spending" appear.
It's unclear what groups United Democracy Project is referring to since the only citation is FEC.gov, a government website that includes every political donation made to every candidate.
This specious claim is then used to justify another United Democracy Project attack ad, which claims that Cisneros would cost Texas "thousands of jobs" because lower police funding would mean fewer jobs for police officers.
All of this is a somewhat toned-down version of Cuellar's own attacks. Cuellar claims Cisneros "would defund the police." He makes these claims even though Cisneros "does not actually support defunding the police."
Most major corporations have not weighed in on the leaked Supreme Court opinon that would overturn Roe. But numerous corporations have shown no reluctance supporting Cuellar in his primary campaign against Cisneros. For the 2022 campaign, more than one-third of the Cuellar campaign's $2.7 million war chest comes from corporate PACs.
Cuellar recieves extensive support from the fossil fuel industry including the American Petroleum Institute ($1,000), Chevron ($10,000), Conoco Phillips ($11,000), Exxon Mobil ($5,000), Halliburton ($10,000), Hess ($15,000), Koch Industries ($8,500), Marathon Oil ($3,500), Marathon Petroleum ($7,500), Occidental Petroleum ($7,500), Phillips 66 ($5,000), Southern Company ($6,000), and US Energy ($5,000).
Cuellar has a 50% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters — the lowest of any House Democrat. He routinely opposes environmental legislation.
Other corporate PAC donors to Cuellar include AT&T ($5,000), Comcast ($1,500), Dell ($5,000), Wendy's ($5,000), Toyota ($7,000), and Walmart ($2,500).
Cisneros does not accept corporate PAC money. She has also signed the "No Fossil Fuel Money" pledge, "which prohibits candidates from accepting contributions over $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, and political action committees."
Pelosi and her whole corrupt leadership team-- Hoyer, Clyburn and the divisive, Wall Street-owned-and-operated leader of Congress' anti-progressive war, Hakeem Jeffries backed Cuellar. So how seriously do they really take protecting Roe v Wade... or is it just a convenient talking point they use against Republicans? Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, Jamaal Bowman, Katie Porter, Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley endorsed Jessica. If you want to help defend other progressives from these attacks by AIPAC, Hakeem Jeffries, and other corrupt corporate monstrosities trying to kick progressives out of the Democratic Party, this is the page to contribute to progressives battling it out with members of the Blue Dog Caucus. Bernie and AOC and a few allies can't do it all on their own.