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Rep. Henry Cuellar will defeat progressive primary challenger Jessica Cisneros, CNN projects

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By Gregory Krieg, CNN

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, the lone remaining anti-abortion Democrat in the House, will defeat progressive Jessica Cisneros in a runoff, CNN projects.

The Texas Democratic Party announced the results of a recount in the race on Tuesday, which found Cuellar ahead by 289 votes.

Cisneros, who also lost to Cuellar in 2020, conceded on Tuesday, according to a release from her campaign.

“We always knew this was an uphill battle. We were up against a corrupt political machine, Republican-funded Super PACs, the Koch brothers, private prisons, Big Oil, the Chamber of Commerce, dark money groups, Big Pharma, and nearly the entire Democratic Party establishment in Washington – and we still refused to back down,” Cisneros said in a statement.

“With this close of a margin, it’s clear that without their aggressive interference in the lives of South Texas families, we would have won.”

The result is a blow to progressives and, more broadly, Democrats who support abortion rights and hope that anger over the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade might drive the issue to the forefront this election cycle.

It also marks what many might have considered an unlikely revival for Cuellar, whose political fate was thrown into doubt earlier this year before the primaries when the FBI searched his home and a campaign office. In April, Cuellar’s lawyer said federal authorities told him that his client was not a target of the investigation.

Despite being hammered over his anti-abortion position by Cisneros and her allies, including EMILY’s List, which invested big late in the race, Cuellar again emerged with the nomination in the South Texas district, which runs south from San Antonio to the US-Mexico border.

Cuellar, like other Democratic moderates during this year’s primaries, benefited from a surge of outside money and the backing of party leaders in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn, who traveled to Texas to campaign for Cuellar, all stood with the congressman despite frustration from pro-abortion rights voters.

“Democratic leadership trampled over their own stated principles to carry Henry Cuellar to victory,” Natalia Salgado, the progressive Working Families Party’s director of federal affairs, said in a statement following Cisneros’ concession.

The runoff between Cuellar and Cisneros marked their third — and, with the final count now in — closest race. In 2020, she came within fewer than 4 percentage points of unseating him in a primary. This March, in a three-way primary, Cisneros finished second, denying Cuellar an outright majority and paving the way for their decisive runoff — and one more narrow loss.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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