With final votes tallied Friday, Rep. Henry Cuellar expanded his election night lead over primary challenger Jessica Cisneros from 177 votes to 281 in the race for the Democratic nomination in U.S. House District 28.

Cisneros’ campaign said she’s waiting for the final canvas by the state party to make an announcement on whether she will seek a recount, which she is qualified to do under Texas law. 

Cuellar declared victory in a statement Friday afternoon and said it was time for the party to “come together” ahead of the November general election against Republican Cassy Garcia, a former deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

After Cuellar’s 2020 race against Cisneros, he went on to win reelection with 58% of the vote. Since then the district has been redrawn more favorably for Democrats, adding a greater share of San Antonio into a district that stretches south to the Rio Grande Valley. 

But Bexar County hasn’t been particularly helpful to Cuellar in recent elections. Voters in the county overwhelmingly supported Cisneros in last week’s runoff. In 2020, after another hard-fought primary against Cisneros, Cuellar went on to carry Bexar County by a narrower margin than he carried the district as a whole.

Cuellar has represented the district since 2005 and lives in Laredo. Voters there turned out in high numbers to support him in the runoff, even after the FBI raided his home earlier this year. Webb County cast nearly 21,000 votes in the runoff, compared to Bexar County’s roughly 12,000.

Garcia currently lives near the U.S.-Mexico border in Edinburgh, which is not in the 28th district. Though members of Congress are not required to live in their districts, Garcia said she and her fiance Jason Owens, Chief Patrol Agent for the United States Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector, are currently looking for a home in Schertz, which is in the northern part of the district. 

“We just met with a realtor,” Garcia said in an interview outside the Guadalupe County office building where she greeted runoff voters alongside leaders from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. Garcia defeated Republicans’ 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten with 57% of the vote in the Republican primary runoff.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that helps elect Republicans to Congress, said it has reserved $3.5 million in TV ads in San Antonio and another $370,000 in Laredo for the race for the 28th Congressional District.

Republicans have plenty of reasons to be excited about South Texas after President Joe Biden carried this part of the state with slimmer margins than past Democratic presidential nominees. But some of their optimism about the 28th District revolved around the prospect of a race against Cisneros, who Garcia said she considered to be the easier target.

“I’m fine going up against Cuellar, I know him personally,” said Garcia. “He’s a great person, great guy, but out of touch with the district now. I think people are seeing it for the first time.” 

Texas’ 28th Congressional District is rated Democrat/tossup by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. 

National Republicans are trying to flip a total of five Texas Congressional seats currently held by Democrats. Democrats currently control the House with 220 out of 535 seats. Republicans control 208 seats, and there are seven vacancies. 

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.