Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) flew to Texas on Friday to campaign for Jessica Cisneros, the progressive immigration lawyer challenging Rep. Henry Cuellar for the Democratic nomination in the state’s 28th Congressional District.

Cuellar, who has represented the district since 2005, narrowly led Cisneros in the primary on March 1, but neither candidate received a majority of the vote, forcing them into a runoff that will be held Tuesday.


The race has become a proxy war between the progressive wing of the party and House Democratic leadership, who are backing Cuellar despite his reputation as one of the more conservative Democrats in Congress.

At a rally held in San Antonio, Sanders attacked Cuellar’s voting record on abortion as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Jessica is running against a candidate, Mr. Cuellar, who apparently believes that it is appropriate for the government, at the federal, state, and local level, to tell every woman in this country what you can or cannot do with her body,” Sanders told the audience Friday evening. “Jessica and I and you disagree.”

Cuellar is the only anti-abortion Democrat in the House, something Cisneros and her surrogates have capitalized on in the days since a draft Supreme Court ruling on abortion was leaked.

Despite Cisneros's calls for House leadership to withdraw their endorsement of Cuellar, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) have each stood by their support.

Sanders has been campaigning on behalf of other progressive candidates in the midterm cycle. He traveled to Pittsburgh last week to rally in support of Summer Lee, who won the Democratic primary on Friday in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.

In San Antonio, Sanders cited Lee’s win as an example of how progressive candidates can overcome the “powerful corporate interests” opposing them in states across the country.

“All of their money, millions and millions of dollars coming into Pittsburgh, we beat them,” he said. “And we are going to beat them here in District 28, Texas.”

Tuesday’s runoff is expected to be close. Cuellar received 48.6% of the vote in March, to Cisneros’s 46.7%. The two first competed against each other in 2020, with Cuellar winning renomination by fewer than 4 percentage points.


The eventual nominee will face unfavorable political headwinds nationally, as Republicans are widely expected to retake the House in November. Although Cuellar beat his GOP opponent, Sandra Whitten, by almost 20 points in 2020, the race is rated this cycle as a “Democratic toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.

Whitten will compete in a runoff of her own on Tuesday, as no candidate in the seven-way Republican primary earned a majority of the vote. She will face off against Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who led Whitten in the March 1 contest by more than 5 points.