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Conservative Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar narrowly edged out over progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in the Texas primary Tuesday, and the pair will now go head-to-head in a run-off election in May.
Cuellar, who was hit with an FBI Raid on his home just ahead of the race, was ahead of the 28-year-old immigration attorney by less than 1,000 votes in the South Texas district. Cuellar won 48.5% of the vote and Cisneros 46.8%, but since neither broke 50% the race heads to a runoff under Texas election law.
Texas’s primaries were the first of the midterm season. For the left, it was a test between progressives and establishment Democrats, and for the right it was a test of former President Trump’s hold on the party.
And while Democrats cried out last year that a new GOP-led election security law would suppress voters, midterm turnout increased from 2.56 million votes in 2018 to 2.93 million votes in 2022.
Cuellar narrowly beat Cisneros in 2020, by less than 2,700 votes, and this time she came back for his seat with the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who traveled to the Lonestar State for a rally on her behalf, and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Cuellar is one of the last pro-choice Democrats in Congress and has been critical of President Biden’s handling of the southern border.
Cisneros received a political blessing with an FBI raid on Cuellar’s home in the month leading up to the primary. The raid was tied to a criminal investigation with business people from the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan.
It’s still not clear whether Cuellar himself is a subject or target of the probe, and he has vowed to cooperate with any investigation.
Cuellar is one of the last pro-choice Democrats in Congress and has been critical of President Biden’s handling of the southern border
Cuellar narrowly beat Cisneros in 2020, by less than 2,700 votes, and this time she came back for his seat with the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who traveled to the Lonestar State for a rally on her behalf
The nine-term Democrat is co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, an obscure group dedicated to furthering relations with the oil-rich nation on the Caspian Sea.
In that role, Cuellar is known to have met repeatedly with Azerbaijan officials, including the country’s ambassador to the US, Elin Suleymanov.
Azerbaijan has been harshly criticized in the past for bribing foreign officials and diplomats to secure its foreign policy aims and legitimize dubious election results. The practice is so common in the country that it is known there as ‘caviar diplomacy,’ but it is unclear whether the FBI is investigating any similar allegations in relation to Cuellar.
Still, Cuellar outspent Cisneros 2:1 and attacked her for being too liberal to hold down the district.
Meanwhile, attorney general Ken Paxton was hoping an endorsement from Trump would help him fend off three aggressive primary challengers, but the incumbent will now be forced to battle for the nomination for two more months in a run-off against Texas land commissioner George P. Bush, the nephew of one president and grandson of another.
Paxton has been mired in a 2015 securities fraud indictment that he is still fighting. The charges stemmed from his time in the state House when prosecutors said he directed investments to a firm without disclosing he would be compensated for doing so
Paxton also faced off against U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, whose Trump-aligned base overlapped with his own, and Eva Guzman, a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court who had won the support of establishment and pro-business conservatives.
‘I guess what I’d say is, clearly, to the establishment: they got what they wanted,’ Paxton said in a speech to supporters Tuesday night. ‘They got me in a runoff.’
Still, the attorney general garnered 42.7% of the vote to Bush’s 22.8%.
Greg Abbott fended off challengers and will now take on Democrat Beto O’Rourke, though the Texas governor is favored to hold on to his seat, due in part to the fact that he has got nearly 10 times the cash on hand as O’Rourke does.
And the establishment and activist wings of the Republican Party went toe to toe in the primary for the seat of Rep. Kevin Brady, who is retiring, where Navy SEAL veteran Morgan Luttrell beat out former aide to Ted Cruz Christian Collins with 52% of the vote.
A super PAC aligned with Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy had thrown its weight behind Luttrell, while a PAC aligned with the House Freedom Caucus had gone all-in for Collins. Reps. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., appeared at an event for Collins last month.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, with his wife Cecilia and daughter Audrey, arrives for a primary election night event on Tuesday in Corpus Christi, Texas
Texas Democrat gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks at a primary election gathering in Fort Worth, Texas Tuesday night after securing the Democratic nomination for Texas governor
In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Dan Crenshaw breezed past three GOP challengers. His recent feud with the House Freedom Caucus, whose members he called out as ‘grifters’ and ‘performance artists,’ gave fodder to his challengers from the right to hit him with.
Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Van Taylor, a two-term House member who has drawn criticism from other Republicans for accepting the results of the 2020 election, got pulled into a primary runoff but abruptly dropped out after details of his affair came to light.
Far-right websites leaked audio of an interview with Texas resident Tania Joya, an ex-jihadist, who said she met Taylor through her work helping to reprogram extremists and the affair lasted from October 2020 to June 2021, just ahead of the primary.