Only the House Democrat who doesn’t support abortion rights faces a challenger

Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas is the only remaining anti-abortion Democrat in the US House of Representatives. He has survived challenges from the left over the years because of his close ties to his border district and his appeal to voters who share his more moderate approach. But with the The Supreme Court is now set to overturn Roe v. wadeprogressives believe they still have their best shot at defeating him.

Voters in the Southern District of Texas will head to the polls on Tuesday to choose between Cuellar and his liberal challenger, Jessica Cisneros. The contest is a run-off after none of the contestants passed the 50% threshold needed to win in March. The race numbers to test the strength of the abortion rights movement among more conservative Latino voters.

Cuellar, who was the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act, maintains support from the party leadership, despite calls from Cisneros to withdraw their support. Days after the Roe draft decision was leaked, South Carolina House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn traveled to Texas to campaign with Cuellar.

“I disagree with Henry Cuellar on everything,” Clyburn said, referring to Cuellar’s stance on abortion. “We have to sit down with people we disagree with and try to find common ground, to do what is necessary to move this country forward.”

Jessica Cisneros / Henry Cuellar

Getty Images/Brandon Bell, Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch

But Cisneros also brought out progressive supporters: Sen. Bernie Sanders came to San Antonio to campaign for her on Friday, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came before the primary.

“If you believe, like the vast majority of Americans, that women should be in control of their bodies and not the government, then this election is very important,” Sanders told CBS Affiliate San Antonio. KENS 5 before the rally with Cisneros.

South Texas has been a longtime haven for Democrats, but it’s one of the areas with large Latino populations that has seen Republicans gain ground in recent years. That trend appears to be helping Cuellar’s primary eligibility ahead of what is expected to be a dismal midterm year for Democrats. He led with 48.4% in the March primary, while Cisneros received 46.9%.

Cisneros and his supporters see abortion news as something to change the dynamics of the race.

“On May 24, we will defeat the last anti-choice Democrat and South Texas will finally have a representative in their corner who will fight for their health care and their freedom,” she said in a May 4 statement. .

A recent CBS News Pollfollowing the leaked draft advisory, found that 72% of Hispanic voters want Roe kept as is, which is slightly higher than 64% of Americans who want the landmark decision left out.

If Roe is overturned, 38% of Hispanic voters said they want abortion to be legal in all cases, while 29% said they want it to be legal in most cases, according to that same poll. Thirty-three percent said they would prefer abortion to be illegal in most (21%) or all (12%) cases. White voters were less likely to support legal abortion (61% combined between legal in all or most cases), while black voters (77%) were more likely to support it.

Republicans, however, think the issue could work in their favor. A recent internal Republican National Committee poll showed a similar number of Hispanic voters against unrestricted abortion.

Sylvia Bruni is the Democratic County Chairperson for Webb County, a Cuellar stronghold and a predominantly Latino region. She said while the majority of older, more religious Latino voters in the county are against abortion, she has seen public opinion shift in recent years to become more progressive and pro-choice. groups are becoming more vocal and active since the Opinion Draft leaked.

She added that there is no clear dividing line between Latinos on their stance on abortion now, as older voters have joined younger groups leading protests against the looming decisions of the Supreme Court.

“I have a group of Democrats who are older, just like me. And they are very concerned about Roe v. Wade. We are all Catholics, but like me, I am very personally against it. But I have no right to tell you what to do. Punto,” she said.

Bruni said that while the energy on the issue lies with progressives, which could help Cisneros, she could not predict whether conservatives would also be boosted by the prospect of unseating Roe.

After the leak, Cuellar released a statement reiterating his stance against abortion rights, but also said he was against overturning Roe v. Wade.

“I do not support abortion, however, we cannot have an outright ban,” he wrote, adding that there should be exceptions such as rape, incest and danger. for the life of the mother. “My faith will not allow me to support a decision that would criminalize teenage victims of rape and incest – my faith is clear: abortion must be rare and safe.”

Neither Cisneros nor Cuellar agreed to be interviewed for this article.

Yvonne Gutierrez, the general manager of Latino Victory, said it was telling that Cuellar did not lean on his anti-abortion stance during the runoff. If Cisneros wins on Tuesday, she thinks their differences on the issue could be the deciding factor.

“We need to give more credit to Latino voters, they really understand what’s at stake,” Gutierrez said. She noted that while some Latinos may not personally support abortion, they are able to put “their personal beliefs aside for what it means for their communities and their rights.”

Part of Gutierrez’s group’s message among Latino voters focuses on the disproportionate impact Roe’s overthrow could have on people of color.

“We know that the vast majority of Latinas are employed, many are already heads of households, mothers, and when you already think about the impact, with the economy as it is, everyone is working hard to put some food on the table, supporting their families with a higher cost of living,” she said. “When you look at these barriers to accessing care, they multiply.”

Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of the progressive Indivisible Group, said Cuellar was “protecting herself” with her statement and noted an advertisement by “Mainstream Democrats,” a PAC funded by LinkedIn co-founder and billionaire Reid Hoffman, which highlights how Cuellar “opposes banning abortion.”

“That says a lot about who perceives this issue as a vulnerability for them,” Greenberg said. “Many people may feel nuanced about abortion while still being concerned about and opposed to extremist bans that take the choice completely out of the hands of those actually affected.”

“While there are often people who may have mixed personal views on abortion, the overall popularity of the extremism the GOP is advancing is clearly not [high],” she added.

Eileen Diaz McConnell, a sociologist and demographer at Arizona State University, said the nuance in how Latinos’ attitudes toward the community feel about abortion is similar to the diversity of opinions among non-white Americans. hispanics. She said it often depends on factors such as their gender, religious identity or how many generations they’ve been in the country, but in general a majority of Latinos support abortion in most or all all cases.

“I don’t know if we know enough to say, if we did apples – apples, white women – do they think exactly like Mexican women or Puerto Rican women or Cuban women?” she says. “So I think they kinda look alike, because overall [of Latino voter data], is to get rid of all this internal diversity. Of which there are quite a few.

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