A south Texas House Democratic primary involving a rare anti-abortion Democratic member of Congress is taking on a new level of urgency for backers of both candidates.

In Texas’s 28th Congressional District, House Democratic leadership is backing Rep. Henry Cuellar, who supports limits on abortion. Cuellar already faced a challenge from progressives by attorney Jessica Cisneros before the leak of a Supreme Court draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states.

Cisneros is now making the topic of abortion the fodder for her campaign ahead of the May 24 runoff in the Rio Grande Valley district.

"As the Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade, I am calling on Democratic Party leadership to withdraw their support of Henry Cuellar, who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House," Cisneros, 28, said in a statement.


Though Cuellar, a 17-year incumbent, has voted with his party’s agenda 97.5% of the time, he was the lone House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act that would have codified abortion access at the federal level.

"As a Catholic, I do not support abortion, however, we cannot have an outright ban," Cuellar wrote in a statement. "There must be exceptions in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother."

Cisneros faced off against Cuellar in 2020, where she lost by 4 percentage points. This year, she forced him into a runoff election during the Texas primaries on March 2.

Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) recently came to Texas to stump for Cuellar during a trip planned before the bombshell report about the Supreme Court. The party tends to support incumbents. And Clyburn said that the Democrats are a “big-tent party” with room for differing views.

“We have a big-tent party, and if we’re gonna be a big-tent party, we got to be a big-tent party,” Clyburn said after a rally. “I don’t believe we ought to have a litmus test in the Democratic Party. I think we have to bring as many people into the party as we possibly can.”

Clyburn added, “I would ask anybody: Which is more important — to have a pro-life Democrat or to have an anti-abortion Republican? Because come November, that could very well be the choice in this district.”

The GOP is targeting several districts held by Democrats in southern Texas, hoping to capitalize on frustration with the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border, economic issues, and the cultural conservatism among Hispanics in the region. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House, endorsed GOP nominee hopeful Cassy Garcia, who is hoping to flip Cuellar's seat red.


Democratic leadership has been hesitant to back left-wing challengers to incumbents, as demonstrated in Ohio in a race between the more establishment Rep. Shontel Brown and Bernie Sanders-endorsed Nina Turner. Brown won the primary easily.

But it may not be so simple for Cuellar. Though Clyburn talks about the Democrats as a "big-tent party," any defectors from the party line on abortion have all but disappeared. Dan Lipinski, a 16-year incumbent anti-abortion Democrat from a suburban Chicago congressional district, was ousted by a left-wing challenger in the 2020 Illinois primary.