Progressives get a mixed bag in Texas as Cisneros and Cuellar head to a runoff

Another AOC-backed candidate, Greg Casar, wins his primary easily

Eric Garcia
Thursday 03 March 2022 05:36 GMT
(Getty Images)

Progressive Democrats in Texas got a mixed bag on election night on Tuesday when their preferred candidate won in Austin and advanced to a runoff against an anti-abortion and pro-gun incumbent Democrat.

Greg Casar, a former Austin city councilman who was the architect of a plan to reduce police funding in the state’s capital city, easily beat his Democratic challengers. By comparison, on Wednesday afternoon with 96 per cent of polling locations reporting, Mr Casar had 25,306 whereas his nearest opponent, state representative Eddie Rodriguez had 6,433 votes.

Progressive leaders including Sen Bernie Sanders and Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supported his run. The self-described democratic socialist from New York congratulated Mr Casar on his win.

“Congressman @GregCasar has a pretty nice ring to it!” she tweeted.

Conversely, representative Henry Cuellar and his progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in Texas’s 28th District will face each other in a runoff in a race that has become a proxy war for the larger fight between progressive and moderate Democrats.

Mr Cuellar, a moderate Democrat who represents multiple border districts with large Latino populations, is had become the source of progressive for his conservative positions on guns and abortion rights.

Progressives like Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Rep Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, both of whom beat incumbent Democrats, backed Ms Cisneros. Ms Cisneros, a former intern for Mr Cuellar who is often called the “King of Laredo”, won in the mostly urban areas of the district while Mr Cuellar won in the more rural areas near the border.

Ms Cisneros performed best in Bexar County, where San Antonio is located and is roughly 60 per cent Hispanic, winning more than 8,700 votes compared to Mr Cuellar’s nearly 2,500 votes. She also performed well in Guadalupe County, which houses San Antonio’s suburbs, where she got more than 70 per cent of the vote.

But Mr Cuellar performed well in the more rural areas where Republicans have been improving. In Zapata County, which voted for Donald Trump in 2020 and is almost 95 per cent Hispanic, Mr Cuellar won more than 70 per cent. Similarly, Mr Cuellar won about 59 percent of the vote Webb County, the home of Laredo which is 95 per cent Latino and moved 30 points rightward in 2020.

On the Republican side, Cassy Garcia, who worked for Sen Ted Cruz and was an appointee to the Trump administration, will head to the runoff in the same district. The state’s Republican attorney general Ken Paxton will also head to a runoff against George P Bush, the state’s land commissioner who is also the son of former Florida Gov Jeb Bush, the grandson of former president George H W Bush and the nephew of former president and Texas governor George W Bush.

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