As of Monday night, Cuellar was leading Cisneros by 187 votes, or 0.4 percentage points, according to the Associated Press. Because the contest was so close, however, the AP did not project a winner. Under Texas rules, there are no automatic recounts. But the second-place finisher can request — and pay for — a second tally if the margin of victory is less than 10 percent of the winner’s total.
Cuellar declared victory Monday night and called on Democrats to “come together,” even while acknowledging that Cisneros “has every legal right to call for a recount.”
“Every vote has been counted and our margin not only held but increased,” Cuellar said in a statement. “I welcome this process as it will only further verify our victory.”
The March primary between the two Democrats headed to a runoff last month after neither secured 50 percent of the vote needed to advance to the general election in November.
Cisneros, Cuellar are locked in a tight battle
The primary battle is only the latest tight race for Cuellar. In his first bid for Congress in 2004, the conservative Democrat eked out a 58-vote primary victory over incumbent Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez.
More recently, Cisneros nearly toppled Cuellar in the 2020 Democratic primary, trailing the incumbent by 2,690 votes, or about three percentage points. She forced him into last month’s runoff by holding his vote total to less than 50 percent in the March primary.
Cisneros, a first-generation Mexican American lawyer like Cuellar, once interned for the congressman. She said repeatedly during the campaign that Cuellar, who opposes abortion rights and is a critic of some of President Biden’s immigration policies, was out of touch with the 28th District.
Cuellar is the only antiabortion Democrat in the House. After the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion on abortion rights last month, Cuellar said in a statement that although he is personally antiabortion, there “must be exceptions in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.”
The race has underscored the divisions within the Democratic Party and is being viewed as a test of whether left-leaning candidates, who have struggled in recent elections, can prevail over more moderate Democrats.
The race also comes on the heels of an FBI raid on Cuellar’s home and campaign headquarters in January. The congressman has declared his innocence and vowed to remain in the race. The FBI has declined to discuss the probe.
Cuellar is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. He was boosted by support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.). Cisneros, meanwhile, supports more liberal policies and has the backing of a new generation of liberal Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
And while Cuellar’s positions are in line with the rightward leanings of his district, especially his hometown of Laredo, where many Hispanic voters espouse conservative views about religion, family and social values, throughout her campaign, Cisneros rallied against Cuellar’s stance on issues such as abortion, immigration and health care by arguing that they no longer represent what the district wants.
In her statement Monday, Cisneros said her campaign and movement were “never just about one politician.”
“It was about taking on an unjust system that rewards corruption and corporate profits at the expense of the needs of working people,” Cisneros has said.