One of the Democratic Party’s most right-wing members of Congress will have a primary challenger next year, making him the latest incumbent confronted by a progressive insurgency that’s not waiting for change.
Jessica Cisneros, an immigration and human rights lawyer from south Texas, announced Thursday that she will take on Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) in the 2020 primary. Cisneros was recruited by Justice Democrats, the progressive group behind the 2018 campaigns of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).
In comments to HuffPost, Justice Democrats executive director Alexandra Rojas made clear there’s a target on Cuellar.
“Our grassroots progressive movement has an opportunity to build a more accountable Democratic Party by unseating one of the worst amid our ranks and ushering in a new generation of leaders,” Rojas said.
In her announcement video, Cisneros said that the differences between her and Cuellar were stark and that Cuellar’s right-wing voting record shows that the incumbent is not the kind of Democrat that his constituents need.
Cisneros refers to Cuellar as “Trump’s favorite Democrat” in Congress, and there’s some evidence to support that claim. According to FiveThirtyEight, Cuellar votes with the president 52.8 percent of the time, more than double the 25.4 percent of the time FiveThirtyEight‘s model predicts he should, given Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in Cuellar’s district in 2016.
“Here’s the truth,” Cisneros said in her campaign announcement video. “Henry Cuellar fights to protect Trump and the big corporations.”
In an interview with Common Dreams, Cuellar spokesperson Colin Strother dismissed Cisneros’ use of that data to conclude Cuellar was a favorite of Trump, calling the accusation part of “talking points from a New York based for-profit special interest group”—Justice Democrats—that Cisneros had been provided by the organization. Those talking points, Strother said, “don’t reflect reality.”
“She’s using many direct quotes from Justice Democrats,” said Strother.
When asked to provide other examples of direct quotes from the group used by Cisneros, Strother refused.
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