Progressive Wins Democrat Texas Race Despite Far-left Breakup Over Israel-Palestine

Greg Casar triumphed Tuesday with over 60 percent of the vote, while a second Texas congressional district featuring a young progressive backed by J Street goes to a runoff in May

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Democratic candidate Greg Casar celebrating victory in his Texas primary, on Wednesday.
Democratic candidate Greg Casar celebrating victory in his Texas primary, on Wednesday. Credit: Sara Diggins/AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – Greg Casar, the 32-year-old progressive Democrat who lost the support of the Democratic Socialists of America over his refusal to back BDS, decisively won Tuesday’s primary for Texas’ 35th congressional district.

The Austin City Council member earned more than 60 percent of the vote in a race that was considered a test study in the left’s ongoing debate over effective ways to engage with Israel and whether such engagement is disqualifying in itself.

He successfully avoided a runoff, all but assuring he will represent his solidly blue district in Congress next year following November’s general election. His campaign was aided by the endorsement of fellow young progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Casar is a democratic socialist who came to prominence after advocating for hot-button progressive issues, and had widely been considered the front-runner after Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a J Street ally, moved districts following redistricting.

While Casar had been previously endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, he found himself at odds with his far-left allies after writing a local rabbi, pledging his support for U.S. military assistance to Israel and opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

In the letter, first reported by Jewish Insider, Casar echoed the foreign policy orientation of many on the progressive left: that support for Israel’s security and Palestinian human rights are not mutually exclusive.

The Democratic Socialists’ Austin chapter, which notably debated expelling New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman late last year over his participation on a J Street delegation to Israel and the West Bank, publicly condemned Casar’s positions, calling them “not reconcilable with DSA’s stance in solidarity with Palestine.” While it stopped short of revoking its endorsement, it said it would “no longer be working on the Casar campaign.”

The other closely monitored race, between centrist Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive upstart Jessica Cisneros in Texas’ 28th congressional district, heads to a May runoff after neither passed the 50-percent threshold. The battle is between a pro-Israel incumbent and a progressive critic critical of how the United States contributes to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning with Jessica Cisneros in Texas in February.Credit: Eric Gay/AP

While Israel is not a primary talking point in this electoral battle, the two candidates stand in stark opposition on how they relate – leading J Street to offer almost unprecedented support for Cisneros over an incumbent, including bankrolling $100,000 via its new action fund to support her candidacy with a targeted digital ad buy.

The runoff will be held on May 24.

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