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House Incumbent Cuellar Faces 1st-Ever Primary Challenge From Justice Democrat Cisneros In TX-28

Henry Cuellar (TX-28) faces his first serious primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros.

Fifteen-year incumbent Henry Cuellar aims to retain control of Texas' 28th congressional district in a heated race against his first Democratic primary challenger, Jessica Cisneros.

House District 28 stretches from eastern San Antonio to Laredo and into western Hildago County, just outside McAllen. Constituents are largely rural and Latino, and the area includes some of Texas' poorest zip codes. Voter turnout is extremely low but when they do turn out, residents consistently vote for Democrats.

Cuellar is an unapologetic moderate known for working with representatives from both sides of the aisle, who touts his experience working to promote business, trade and border security. He was called "the USMCA whisperer" for his instrumental role in the passage of an updated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Cuellar was born in Laredo and lives in the district today.

Twenty six-year-old Cisneros is an immigration and human rights lawyer. She was born in Laredo, but had been living in New York before returning to Texas to launch her campaign. She is aligned with the progressive Justice Democrats -- a group best known for its backing of then long-shot candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- in the fight to represent the southern border district.

Both candidates have received high-profile endorsements. Cisneros is backed by Democratic presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Cuellar has been endorsed by more than 200 local elected officials, as well as former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Cuellar critics point to his record of voting with Trump nearly 70% of the time and "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, while those opposed to Cisneros cite inexperience and a disconnect between her progressive agenda and district residents' values.

What are the most important issues for constituents of Texas House District 28? Will voters choose a progressive or moderate congressional representative? Which candidate would be best suited to face Republican candidate Sandra Whitten in the November general election?


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview aired on Wednesday, February 19.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dallas Williams is a Producer for The Source at Texas Public Radio. With a degree in Mass Communication — Broadcast Media, Dallas brings a unique perspective and a passion to producing a live, call-talk show.