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Runoff in GOP bid to unseat Congressman Rep. Henry Cuellar

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar
Veronica Cardenas
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

Texas's 28th Congressional District runs from the eastern outskirts of San Antonio down to the U.S. Mexico border, and it covers nine counties. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, has held the seat since 2005, and he ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary. But the Republican ticket is still up for grabs.

In the 2022 election cycle, Cuellar faced tough competition in the primary from progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros. It coincided with an FBI raid on Cuellar's residence and greater scrutiny of his anti-abortion stance.

“You had progressives nationwide going after moderate centrist Democrats,” Cuellar said. “They wanted to see Democrats be like them instead of being like their districts.”

The incumbent said his status as one of the few remaining “moderate” Democrats has helped him win votes and better represent his district. But he admitted that polarization in Congress has made it harder to get work done.

“The 10% on the far left and the 10% on the far right make it very hard for us in the middle to govern the other 80% Because they're so loud — they're so out there. But there are still a lot of Democrats and Republicans that want to do their job, and that's to govern,” he said.

Read the results of all the races in the Texas 2024 primary elections, including those of interest for the San Antonio area and South Texas.

Cuellar said his top priorities are infrastructure funding, border security and trade. He also supports balancing clean energy with oil and gas. When asked about his campaign strategy for the general election, Cuellar said he would rely on his usual playbook.

“We'll run our campaign the way we've always done it," he said. "By being in every county and producing for every county. I go and I listen to people.”

Lazaro Garza, Jimmy Leon, Jay Furman and Cuellar’s former district director Jose Sanz battled for the Republican ticket. Furman and Garza are headed to a runoff in May since no candidate claimed 50% of the vote.

Furman, a veteran, campaigned on restricting migration at the southwest border, in addition to expanding local infrastructure in support of international trade.

“World history is filled with the ashes of nations demolitioned by mass migration bombs,” he told the Laredo Morning Times. “No other candidate seems to recognize, much less have the experience necessary, to defend our land, liberty, and property — and it must come in that order.”

Garza, a rancher and businessman, has spoken publicly about what he describes as a lack of border security and the impact that has on Texans.

The seat is being targeted by national Republicans in the general election.

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Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.