Progressive Democrats are about to remove the party’s last pro-life House Democrat during a runoff election in southwestern Texas on Tuesday.
That’s where eight-term Rep. Henry Cuellar defends his left wing in a hard-fought Democratic primary race against progressive darling Jessica Cisneros.
Ms. Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration attorney and former Cuellar intern, hopes the second time will be the charm after losing the incumbent two years ago.
Since the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision overriding Roe v. Wade, Ms. Cisneros has put “reproductive freedom” at the center of her closing message, repeatedly reminding voters that Mr. Cuellar is the “last anti-choice Democrat in the U.S. house is”. †
“In Congress, we will fight for representation that will defend the hard-working people of South Texas by investing in us through Medicare for All, high-paying union jobs, and our reproductive freedom,” she said in a recent email explosion.
For his part, Mr Cuellar has walked a thin line in telling voters that he supports abortion in cases of rape and incest.
“Democrat Henry Cuellar stands up for families in South Texas by working every day to keep our cost of living low — that means lower drug prices, health care we can afford, childcare assistance, and a $15 minimum wage,” says the narrator in a Cuellar television commercial. “And as women’s rights come under attack from extremists, Democrat Henry Cuellar has made it clear that he is against an abortion ban.”
The message has not been enough to satisfy many fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill who have rallied behind Ms. Cisneros.
“At a time when our reproductive freedoms are under attack by an extremist Supreme Court, we must elect pro-choice candidates who will fight to ensure abortion remains the law of the land,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a recent endorsement. “Jessica Cisneros embodies the kind of progressive we need in Congress.”
mr. Cuellar also faced unwanted distractions early this year when the FBI raided his home and campaign office. In April, his attorney said the FBI had informed Mr. Cuellar that he was not the subject of the investigation. By this time, however, Ms. Cisneros’ allies had already made the most of the episode.
The Texas Tribune also reported that Ms. Cisneros peaked after the FBI raid, while Mr. Cuellar’s waned.
Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have endorsed Ms. Cisneros.
Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, both from New York, as well as Representatives Katie Porter from California and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts are also all-in for Ms. Cisneros.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, said the pressure to wipe out pro-life Democrats alienates voters who would otherwise choose sides.
“The progressive wing of the Democratic Party really doesn’t care about the health of the Democratic Party itself,” said Ms. Day. “It only cares about his agenda and it’s clear with this race because if Henry Cuellar doesn’t win the primary, the seat will go red in November’s election.”
“So it would be one seat less for the Democrats,” she said. “The Democratic Party needs to take a serious look at how it treats people who believe life in the womb deserves protection.”
Texas voters will also decide Tuesday on the runoff election between controversial Attorney General Ken Paxton and George P. Bush, the son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Voters also head to the polls for the Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia primaries.
Left-wing Democrats are fighting to change the Democratic Party from within and push it further to the left, including on abortion.
Those forces would be on the cusp of taking a few wins in recent primary races. In Pennsylvania, State Representative Summer Lee narrowly leads Steve Irwin in the 12th congressional district. In Oregon, Jamie McLeod-Skinner leads Representative Kurt Schrader in the 5th congressional district.
mr. Cuellar still has powerful allies on his side.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn support him.
“I support my incumbents,” Ms Pelosi said at a March press conference in Austin. “I support them all, from right to left. That’s what I do.”
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List support Ms. Cisneros.
Pro-life Democrats hope a Cuellar win will boost other anti-abortion Democrats, including Chris Butler, a black candidate running in Illinois’ 1st congressional district.
“I think we need to make room in this section for people who understand that the fundamental right to decide when and where to have a baby is a real freedom that we need to protect, but offering an abortion is just not the way to protect that freedom,” Mr Butler said during a recent appearance on Fox and Friends. “We must ignore the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, Frederick Douglas and the work of the Church of God in Christ, the largest black denomination in the United States today.”
“We can’t just tell all these people there’s no place for you in the party,” Mr. Butler said.