SAN ANTONIO — Ten days after a contentious Democratic primary runoff race ended in a slight lead in votes for incumbent Henry Cuellar over challenger Jessica Cisneros, Cuellar has doubled down on his election-night claim to victory.
On Friday, one day after counties were due to submit final ballot counts, the congressman who's represented District 28 since 2005 said he led his progressive opponent by 281 votes, declaring, "I have won this election."
"To those who did not vote for me, as your congressman I will continue to work diligently for you in Washington. While we may differ on certain positions, we share a common ground on many issues to improve our communities and strength families," Cuellar's statement reads, before going on to congratulate his opponent on "a hard-fought race" and emphasize his focus on border security, tax reform, education and lower health care costs.
But Cisneros, who ran away with the vote in urban Bexar County, could still have something to say about the potential finality of her campaign. More than 45,000 total votes were tallied in the race, meaning the difference separating Cuellar and Cisneros is well within the requisite 10% margin for Cisneros to request a recount, should she choose to do so.
As of now, her campaign has not expressed that it has or plans to file for a recount. As recently as Tuesday, however, when the margin separating Cuellar and Cisneros was 177 votes, she reminded voters that "the election isn't over."
The matchup comes after the duo's close finish in the March primary. Cuellar and Cisneros collected 48.4% and 46.9% of the vote, respectively. Both were held back from reaching the threshold to win outright by third candidate Tannya Benavides.
Whoever ultimately wins will face Republican nominee Cassy Garcia, a former assistant for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in the November general election.
The race was among the most heated in Texas’ first-in-the-nation primary. Cuellar is among the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and a Cisneros victory would bring a seismic liberal shift to the district that runs from San Antonio to the Texas border.
Cisneros is a former intern of Cuellar’s who also ran against him in 2020. She narrowly lost, and this time ran a more aggressive campaign that attacked Cuellar over FBI agents searching his home just before voting began.
In addition, the weeks since the March election have seen renewed fervor over reproductive rights in the U.S., following the leak of a draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade sometime this summer. Cuellar is regarded as the only anti-abortion Democrat in the U.S. House, while Cisneros has doubled down on her stance that "abortion is healthcare and reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right."