Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) is a proud moderate. He is the only pro-life Democrat left in the House of Representatives. He is a border hawk who openly criticizes the Biden border crisis. He sounds like a Republican but he is not. He is definitely a Democrat yet some of his new donors are political action committees (PACs) who primarily contribute to Republicans and conservative candidates.
Some of the newest and largest donors to his campaign are political action committees that primarily contribute to Republican candidates and support conservative causes. This includes $4,000 from the Justice, Liberty and Freedom PAC, affiliated with former U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble; $3,000 from a lobbying firm that has contributed to GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Chuck Grassley and $2,900 from Build Our Future PAC, which has given handsomely to the political action committee for John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser.
That’s not something you see every day. Why would these conservative-leaning PACs donate money to the incumbent Democrat instead of to his Republican challenger? Cuellar has been in office since 2005. Cuellar’s appeal is that he is a rare conservative Democrat. He reaps the benefits of that distinction in fundraising. As of the end of June, Cuellar smashed his usual pace for fundraising. He took in almost $4.9 million. Compare that to his total raised at that point in his last race in 2020 and that total was $2.4 million. In 2018, the total was $1.3 million. The next fundraising deadline is October 15.
Cuellar’s district, Texas Congressional district 28 (Laredo) has been redistricted this time around. This race is one of Cuellar’s most competitive because of that. His campaign needs strong fundraising this cycle. It is interesting, though, that those PACs chose to donate to Cuellar instead of to Republican Cassy Garcia, a former staffer of Senator Ted Cruz and a member of the Trump administration. The District 28 race is one of the few competitive races in the state after redistricting.
Garcia has the chance to flip the district to Republican, as Mayra Flores did in Texas’s 34th congressional district. Corporate PACs may be contributing to Cuellar because he is a safe politician to donate to and the PACs can be seen as donating in a bipartisan manner.
“He is now pretty much alone as a conservative Democrat in the house,” said David Wasserman, one of the nation’s top election forecasters at Cook Political Report. “His campaign committee is a safe place for corporate PACs to donate to prove they are bipartisan without being antithetical to their views.”
Cuellar characterizes his position on abortion access as moderate, saying abortion should be “rare, legal and safe.”
But he was the lone Democrat in the House to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 in July, which aimed to preserve access to abortion care at the federal level. That bill never advanced in the Senate.
Republicans say Cuellar isn’t conservative enough. He is a Democrat at the end of the day, after all. And Republicans are concentrating on flipping the party leadership in the House with the strongest red wave possible. Every seat counts.
But Republicans don’t think Cuellar is conservative enough, and they are throwing millions of dollars behind Garcia, who says she truly embodies the values of the South Texas district.
“The reason why I am running for Congress is to defend faith, family and freedom,” Garcia said on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in July. “The current incumbent Henry Cuellar, who says all the right things, has done absolutely nothing to secure our southern border.”
House Republican leadership will spend around $4 million on Garcia this cycle. Her campaign raised over $1.1 million in the third quarter of the year alone, it announced this week.
Abortion is the big issue for Democrats since the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case. This issue cuts both ways, though, as far as this district is concerned. While progressive Democrats are not pleased with Cuellar remaining in office, the fact is that his district is a majority Hispanic one with a heavily Catholic population.
Cuellar’s outlier stance on abortion is especially notable given that so many Democrats heading into the midterms are relying on a boost of enthusiasm related to anger over the Supreme Court’s action. But Cuellar’s South Texas district, which is predominantly Hispanic, may have more socially conservative Democrats.
“The abortion issue is complicated here because it is a heavily Catholic district,” Wasserman said. “Cuellar is closer to the median voter in this district on this issue.”
Sylvia Bruni, chair of Webb County Democrats, is a Catholic who does not believe in abortion but also does not support government bans against it. While she said she has seen “palpable anger” in voters over the overturning of Roe v. Wade, she also thinks the default stance on Cuellar for many is this: He’s better than the alternative.
“Right now anything Republican for me is an absolute danger signal,” Bruni said. “Generally speaking, another Republican in Congress would be disastrous for us.”
Ms. Bruni better buckle up. I think she is going to see a whole lot more Republicans in Congress than she sees currently.
Ted Cruz is campaigning for Garcia and telling voters she can be the next Mayra Flores. Like Flores, Garcia has the support of Border Patrol agents.
During the event, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his father Pastor Rafael Cruz, Rep. Chip Roy (TX-21) and National Border Patrol Council #2455 President Hector Garza touted Garcia as the best candidate for the congressional district. They all stated that Garcia could potentially provide another upset like Rep. Mayra Flores (TX-34) did in her district, as the predominantly Democratic area turned red in a special election earlier this year.
“Republicans are going to retake the House and are going to retake the Senate, but what I am more personally excited about is South Texas is turning red,” Cruz said to the audience of about 150 people. “I got to tell you that I know Cassy. Cassy and I have worked together for nearly a decade, and Cassy is smart, she is principled, she grew up in South Texas and is a product of South Texas. She is beloved throughout The Valley, she is hardworking, tenacious, she is a fighter.”
During his speech, Cruz said Garcia will be the best candidate to work with in Congress to stop the problems of people and drugs crossing through the border, as he said fentanyl overdoses are rising and claimed the solution is to get tougher on border security. He also stated they would help lower inflation and would also make sure they worked together in making sure issues like Homeland Security become top priorities again.
I’ll keep an eye on this race. I’m interested to see how it shakes out on election night in November.