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'Our community isn't done fighting': Cisneros files for recount, extending contentious District 28 battle with Cuellar

Fewer than 300 votes separate the candidates seeking to represent District 28 in the U.S. House.

SAN ANTONIO — A contentious Democratic primary runoff race between longtime District 28 Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros will continue for the time being. 

Cisneros, an immigration attorney and former intern of Cuellar, announced Monday she plans to file for a recount in the close May 24 runoff election. The Texas secretary of state's office said last week that the incumbent led by just 281 ballots out of 45,509 case in the runoff, putting Cisneros well within the requisite 10% margin to request a recount. 

"Our community isn't done fighting," Cisneros is quoted as saying in a press release announcing her plans. "With just under 0.6 percent of the vote symbolizing such stark differences for the future in South Texas, I owe it to our community to see this through to the end."

Cuellar, who last week doubled down on his victory claim, said that while he welcomes a recount, his focus has turned to November's general election. The Laredo native is seeking a ninth term to the seat he's held since 2005. 

"She has no path to victory and will not gain 281 votes," Cuellar said in a statement. "I welcome this process as it will only further verify our victory."

Cisneros ran away with the Bexar County vote in the May 24 runoff, collecting 85% of the vote over her opponent. Across all precincts, she collected 49.69% to Cuellar's 50.31%. 

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."

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