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No winner yet in D28: Cuellar declares victory as Cisneros calls for every vote to be counted

Graphic by Rob Martinez

Full results for the District 28 Democratic runoff election were not yet called on Thursday. While Cuellar declared victory in the race Tuesday night, Cisneros held a virtual press conference on Thursday to address the ongoing vote count.

“We are within reach to go on and win this thing,” she said.

Cisneros said the race is still too close to call and that results will not be available until next week due to the upcoming holiday weekend. “It’s been very clear that there’s still hundreds of uncounted mail-in ballots and provisional ballots across Texas 28,” she said.

Monday is a holiday, so the deadline for military and overseas voters to return ballots is extended to Tuesday. The local canvass deadline is next Thursday, which is also the deadline for counties to report their final count to the state.

Cisneros said she focused her efforts in making sure every vote is counted by encouraging voters to track their mail-in ballots online. Her team has also set up a voting protection hotline to help voters cure their rejected mail-in ballots. She says the hotline has been ringing “non-stop” since Election Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported 99% of votes counted and estimated that Cuellar leads the election by fewer than 200 votes. TPR News has not called the race.

With ballots still pending and a margin so slim, Cisneros said she has not considered calling for a recount. “It might not be us that's going to be requesting the recount,” she said. “It might be Congressman Cuellar.”

The Cuellar-Cisneros primary runoff in Texas’ 28th Congressional District was an intense political battle three years in the making that pitted the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party.

Backed by the party establishment, Cuellar is known for his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and he touts his ability to reach across the aisle and deliver for his district.

Cisneros, who gave Cuellar a close challenge in 2020 and then again in the 2022 primary, was hopeful this was going to be her moment. Progressive heavyweights Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren championed her campaign.

Meanwhile, the Democratic House leadership stuck with Cuellar even through some tumultuous times. The FBI raided his Laredo home and campaign office in February as part of a federal investigation into U.S. businessmen and their connections to Azerbaijan. Cuellar’s lawyer said he was not the target of the raid and is cooperating.

Cuellar counted on support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn visited San Antonio to stump for Cuellar earlier this month.

The national spotlight on this race only intensified after news broke that the U.S. Supreme Court is planning to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Already considered one of the most conservative House Democrats for his votes on gun control and immigration, Cuellar is one of the few Democrats who identifies as pro-life and the only House Democrat who voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act last year.

As Cisneros called on party leadership to withdraw their support for Cuellar earlier this month, they doubled down with Clyburn’s visit to San Antonio.

“I do want to thank Jim Clyburn for his support,” Cuellar said in a statement.

On the Republican side, Cassy Garcia – a former staffer for Senator Ted Cruz — defeated Sandra Whitten, a preschool director and 2020 GOP nominee for the seat, by more than 2,000 votes. The GOP has targeted the 28th Congressional District as one of five seats in Texas it believes it can flip in November.

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