Jessica Cisneros is a 26-year-old immigration and human rights lawyer running for congress against 15 year incumbent of the 28th Congressional District Rep. Henry Cuellar. Both are currently on the campaign trail for the primary election, which will take place on March 3. The general election doesn’t take place until Nov. 3, but with the 28th being one of Texas’ few solidly blue districts, the results are usually determined in the primaries. While both candidates identify as Democrats, Cisneros calls herself a progressive and Cuellar refers to himself as a moderate-centrist.
This difference in affiliation is apparent when looking at their stances on issues such as climate change, which Cisneros has made a central part of her platform by strongly endorsing the Green New Deal. Meanwhile, Cuellar rejects the Green New Deal due to fear of losing jobs. He generally votes with Republicans on environmental issues especially if those votes promote Texas’ oil and gas industry. However, the question is raised if it’s really jobs he’s concerned about, considering he has received over $100,000 from gas and oil PAC’s in this election cycle alone.
Despite 2019 being one of the highest years for mass shooting deaths in Texas in the last decade, Cuellar remains a pro-gun politician with an “A” rating from the NRA. He is also financially backed by the GEO group, one of America’s largest for-profit prison operators, that runs some of the immigration detention centers, where several immigrants have died.
Meanwhile, according to Cisneros’ website, one of the top issues she’s focusing on is “getting big money out of politics.” As a result, she has been adamant about running a grassroots campaign focused on immigration reform and health care for all.
So far, she has kept her word by not accepting any campaign donations from lobbyists or corporate PACs. It may have been this people-powered campaign that caught Bernie Sanders’ eye and pushed him to endorse her along with several others such as Elizabeth Warren, Alexndria Ocasio-Cortez, and most recently, former presidential candidate Julian Castro. She has also received endorsements from national progressive groups like the Justice Democrats, the same group that backed Rep. AOC in 2018, and EMILY’s list, a pro-choice political action commitee.
One of the main arguments between the two candidates is about what kind of Democrat the people of the 28th Congressional District truly want. The district runs from San Antonio’s eastern suburbs down past Laredo to border county of Hidalgo, encompassing some of the state’s poorest zip codes. In 2016, Trump was defeated in the district by a large margin, but Cuellar doesn’t seem to represent the same anti-Trump sentiments as the district, voting with the Republican president 69% of the time. Perhaps it’s time for a change in leadership.