Rep. Henry Cuellar, a centrist Democrat from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and candidate Jessica Cisneros will head to a runoff in the state’s primary election for the 28th district early Wednesday, as one of the highest profile intraparty races of the 2022 election cycle remains too close to call.
Cuellar led Cisernos, an immigration attorney, 48.5%-46.8% with more than 95% of the vote counted in their bids to represent Texas’ 28th congressional district, both narrowly missing the 50% needed to win outright. She unsuccessfully challenged Cuellar in 2020, but ahead of Tuesday’s primary secured support from top Democrats on the left including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Though Cuellar, in his 16th term, fended off challengers in the past, he became even more vulnerable after the FBI raided his home in a “court-authorized” search in the final weeks of his primary campaign.
Cisneros was not the only Texan to prevail Tuesday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott beat two far-right primary challengers, securing nearly 70% of the vote when the race was called, and Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke cleared his respective field with over 90%.
While Dan Patrick, Abbott’s lieutenant governor, won his primary with nearly 80% support, Texas’ Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, failed to hit the 50% support needed to avoid a runoff despite having former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Several notable Republicans, including George P. Bush and Rep. Louie Gohmert, challenged the incumbent after his own aides accused him of bribery and abuse of power.
Republican divisions were also on display in Texas’ 8th district, where Morgan Luttrell, a combat veteran with the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, held a dominant lead over Christian Collins, who was endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz and Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene. If he finishes with over 50% of the vote, Luttrell will be the likely favorite to succeed Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, who is retiring.
The primaries Tuesday are the first in the state since Republicans passed a series of new voting laws limiting mail-in and drive thru voting and since they adopted new congressional lines that shore up nearly all of the state’s House Republicans that were in Democratic-trending districts.
Texas’ primaries are also the first of a cycle that could prove disastrous for Democrats. Not only are midterms historically difficult for the party that holds the White House, but President Joe Biden’s approval rating remains mired in the low to mid-40s.
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