3 Get out of Rep. Henry Cuellar’s campaign after the FBI raid on his home

In the days following the FBI’s raid on the US Representative’s home. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) In late January, three consultants employed by the campaign stopped working on his re-election bid.

The outgoing consultants were Chris Cantu, a data scientist; Andrew Kovach, digital marketing consultant; and Bert Santibañez, a field organization expert, according to two people familiar with their outing. The three Democratic consultants are based in San Antonio, and Cuellar’s progressive challenger, Jessica Cisnerosgreatly surpassed it in 2020 in the eastern part of the city which is in Texas’ 28th congressional district.

James Sonneman, spokesman for the Cuellar campaign, did not deny that the three men had left the campaign.

“We have a top-level team on the ground, and our campaign has led an unprecedented outreach effort for the 28th Congressional District,” Sonneman said in a statement. “We are confident and ready to train our supporters with thousands of phone calls and door knocks by Election Day.”

In addition to the outings of the three consultants, the Voter Education Foundationa “dark money” nonprofit political organization that ran ads attacking Cisneros, is no longer active, according to someone who worked for the group.

The FBI led the raid on Cuellar’s home in Laredo as part of an effort to obtain information about the congressman and his wife’s dealings with businessmen and foreign officials in the oil-rich Central Asian nation what is Azerbaijan. It is unclear whether Cuellar and his wife are the targets of the investigation; the federal authorities did not press charges against them.

Cuellar denied doing so something bad and welcomed a federal investigation that he said would clear his name.

“Let’s be clear: I am a candidate for re-election and I intend to win,” Cuellar said after the raid.

Still, the departures of consultants — and the closure of the Voter Education Foundation — reflect the challenges Cuellar has faced in the past few weeks of his attempt to fend off a second run against Cisneros, an immigration and settlements lawyer. human rights also from Laredo. .

The two candidates have little time to make their arguments. The primary is March 1; early voting began on Monday.

Cuellar once again raised funds heavily for Cisneros, but she gained momentum after the FBI raid. Cisneros announced on Thursday that his campaign raised $700,000 in the first six weeks of 2022, nearly twice as much as he raised in the last three months of 2021.

National progressive figures and groups also began to take a more active role on behalf of his race. Last Saturday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) headliner of a rally in San Antonio to support Cisneros and fellow progressive congressional candidate Greg Casar, who is running in the 35th District. This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Cisneros, and left-leaning pro-Israel group J Street Action Fund announced a $100,000 digital ad campaign in support of Cisneros this week which highlights the raid on Cuellar’s house.

Jessica Cisneros, a Laredo lawyer, left, receives a campaign rally boost from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) Saturday in San Antonio.

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Cisneros also told HuffPost that following the FBI raid, she and her campaign workers noticed greater receptivity to her offer when knocking on voters’ doors.

The raid “made people really think about whether they were going to vote for Cuellar or this campaign much sooner than last time,” she said. “It also forced people to know that we are the most eligible candidate.”

Cisneros, who was recruited by the left-leaning group Justice Democrats, is running on a now-standard array of progressive positions, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, student debt cancellation and aggressive immigration reforms . Cisneros surprised poll watchers in 2020 with an unexpected competitive bid that brought her within 4 percentage points of toppling Cuellar.

Cisneros’ second effort to unseat Cuellar, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, reflects the belief among progressives that a Democratic-leaning seat should be represented by someone closer to President Joe Biden’s views, let alone a leftist lawmaker like Ocasio-Cortez. Among other breaks with party orthodoxy, Cuellar opposes abortion rights and legislation to facilitate the formation of unions.

Still, Cuellar and his allies argue that after a 2020 election cycle in which Democrats lost ground in heavily Latino border counties in southern Texas, a conservative Democrat is the safest bet to keep Texas 28th. in the hands of the Democrats. In 2020, Biden beat then-President Donald Trump in the district by 4 percentage points — a marked drop from 2016, when Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district by nearly 20 points.

Ed Cabrera, one of several Republicans vying to take on whoever will win the 28th Democratic primary in Texas, attended a Republican counter-protest on Saturday outside Ocasio-Cortez’s rally for Cisneros and Casar.

Cabrera defended Cuellar, arguing that the FBI raid was part of some sort of “hit” by the Justice Department to undermine him. He argued that some Democrats’ view of Cuellar as being too conservative speaks to a leftward shift that creates an opening for Republicans like him.

“They moved so far to the left that they left Henry Cuellar behind,” Cabrera said. “They left Nancy Pelosi behind. Imagine: Nancy is almost considered a moderate Democrat now! The Latino community is waking up.

But Cabrera noted that the Republican Party hopes to flip Texas 28th regardless of who wins the Democratic primary. The National Republican Campaign Committee, the arm of the GOP that helps elect Republicans to the House, announced in February that it was adding Cuellar to its list of “battleground Democrats” whose defeat it prioritized.

“We have a pretty good chance this time around,” Cabrera said.

Alanna Vagianos contributed reporting.


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