WASHINGTON – Rep. Henry Cuellar declared victory against progressive Jessica Cisneros in the Democratic Texas primary runoff, in a potentially major victory for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the war between the pro-Israel establishment and critics of U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.
Cisneros, who is currently down less than 200 votes with 95 percent of the votes counted, has not conceded.
The runoff between Cuellar, a 66-year-old moderate and longstanding AIPAC ally, and the Cisneros, a 29-year-old immigration attorney, marked the latest fight between segments of the U.S. Jewish community and pro-Israel organizations, as well as their associated super PACs, which are investing large sums of money in local races.
Tuesday's vote came after neither Cuellar nor Cisneros passed the 50-percent threshold in the March 1 primary (Cuellar received 48.4 percent of the vote, followed by Cisneros with 46.9 percent).
Cuellar was among the first round of Democrats endorsed by AIPAC's federal PAC earlier this year. AIPAC’s super PAC, the United Democracy Project, has invested at least $1.8 million in the nine-term congressman’s campaign. The nine-term congressman was buoyed by the UDP investment, as well as unabated support from Democratic leadership despite positions that are seemingly largely out of sync with his party — including on abortion (he is the only anti-choice Democrat in the House), guns, immigration and climate change, among other issues.
Cuellar's policies only came under further scrutiny on Tuesday following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — he is the only Democrat in Congress to receive an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association and declined to give away donations from the powerful gun lobby amid continued massacres.
"On the day of a mass shooting and weeks after news of Roe, Democratic Party leadership rallied for a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a close primary. Robocalls, fundraisers, all of it. Accountability isn’t partisan. This was an utter failure of leadership," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed and campaigned for Cisneros.
"Our message is the same and transparent in any race that UDP is engaged — the pro-Israel community will stand by its friends who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and confront those who are detractors of that relationship and would seek to undermine it," the AIPAC Super PAC said in a statement. "This winning campaign sends a clear message that support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is both good policy and good politics."
In Georgia, meanwhile, two AIPAC-endorsed Democratic incumbents — Reps. Lucy McBath and David Scott — won their primaries against challengers endorsed by J Street and Sen. Bernie Sanders, respectively. AIPAC highlighted the fact that it endorsed both Black lawmakers alongside the Congressional Black Caucus.