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LAREDO — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Laredo Democrat, won reelection in South Texas’ 28th District after knocking off Republican challenger Cassy Garcia, according to Decision Desk HQ. Cuellar secured his 10th term in office amid the most politically challenging year of his career, which saw his home and office raided by the FBI in the weeks before his primary election. He has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.
The TX-28 race is one of three congressional seats in South Texas where Republicans hoped to build on gains in a region where Democrats have long dominated.
But Cuellar said in an interview early Tuesday that he was never worried. He said he has been building relationships in his community throughout the years.
“I am a congressman, but I always have run as a mayor because I look at the local issues,” Cuellar said. “Tomorrow morning I start to work again.”
From providing more after-school learning programs for students in San Antonio through faith-based organizations to allocating money to build clinics in underserved areas in Laredo, Cuellar said he is focusing on individual communities when he is out campaigning.
Cuellar said former President Donald Trump was “a force of nature,” but he didn’t see hoards of Hispanic Texans defecting from the Democratic party as Republicans had portrayed.
But unlike other Texas Democrats, Cuellar said he focused his campaign on two issues that aligned with Republicans: protecting the oil and gas industry and boosting law enforcement and border security.
How Texas counts ballots
How can I check whether my ballot was counted?
Voters can check with their county election officials to see whether their vote was counted. Some counties also make this information available on their websites. Find your county website here. Who a person voted for is not public record. If you voted through a provisional ballot because of an administrative issue or photo ID problem, you should receive a notice by mail letting you know if your ballot was counted by Dec. 2. Voters who vote by mail can use an online tracker to check the status of their mail-in ballot. You can access the tracker here.
How are votes counted in Texas elections?
County officials can begin counting early voting results, including mail-in ballots, on as early as the last day of early voting in large counties. Those results are usually posted online shortly after polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. Counties must count results from each polling location within 24 hours of the polls closing. Those counts are added in increments to the tally, which is then updated online. This takes time as polling places are closed down and election materials are transported back to county election officials. Election Day results are unofficial because officials still have to account for late arriving mail-in ballots, ballots from military or overseas voters and provisional ballots.
Where can I see election results?
For federal, district and state elections, you can find results on our results page. The data is from our partner Decision Desk HQ, which gathers information from the Texas Secretary of State’s office and a representative sample of 50 counties to provide estimates as to how many votes are left to be counted and call winners. For local elections, you can find results on your county’s website. Find yours here.
How are ballots and elections protected in Texas?
Voting machines and software are certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Texas Secretary of State. Machines used to mark and read ballots cannot connect to the internet to protect against hacking. The machines also have seals with unique serial numbers and are locked down at the end of voting. Paper ballots are also stored in locked boxes and must be preserved for at least 22 months after an election. Texas requires counties that use electronic machines to count votes to conduct a partial manual audit after the election. Read more about election safeguards here.
How common is voter fraud?
Several studies, reports and courts have found that voter fraud is relatively rare, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. Instances of alleged fraud have also in some cases turned out to be mistakes by elections administrators or voters, according to the center. The Texas Secretary of State’s office launched an audit of the 2020 election results in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin Counties. The audit is ongoing, but an initial report found few discrepancies between manual and electronic counts. The Texas Attorney General’s office also opened 390 cases looking at potential electoral fraud from January 2020 to September 2022, but it only secured five election-related convictions during that period.
“I want to thank my family, my team and everyone who believed in me. I gave it my all, but unfortunately, we came up short tonight,” Garcia, his opponent, said on Twitter. Garcia congratulated Cuellar on his victory.
Cuellar faced a contentious primary before advancing to the general election. He narrowly defeated progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros by less than 300 votes. Cisneros blasted Cuellar in the primary for voting with Republicans on key issues.
In July, Cuellar voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, which aimed to preserve abortion access that the federal level. It never received a vote in the Senate.
Cuellar was also hammered by Republicans this year who sought to cast him as corrupt over the FBI raid. No charges have been filed and Cuellar’s attorney has said that the congressman is not the target of the investigation.
“The incumbent cannot pick up the phone and ask the [Department of Justice] to prosecute gangs and cartels when he’s afraid they’ll tell him, ‘Hey, Henry, now that we have you on the line, let’s talk about our ongoing criminal investigation against you,’” Garcia said in an interview with The Texas Tribune in September.
Toward the end of the race, Republicans released a TV ad attempting to link him more directly to Mexican drug cartels. The commercial from the National Republican Congressional Committee cites a 2006 campaign contribution that Cuellar got from the wife of a San Antonio man later accused of money laundering for the cartels. Cuellar’s campaign said they had donated the contribution to charity after learning the man’s brother had been killed in Mexico in a cartel-connected slaying.
Garcia also worked to tether Cuellar to President Joe Biden, frequently calling the Democrat’s platform the “Biden-Cuellar agenda.”
But Cuellar spent the lead-up to the election playing up his moderate bona fides, frequently distancing himself from the White House on issues like abortion. The congressman was a frequent guest on right-wing media outlets such as Fox News. In two Fox News interviews in June, he railed against the record number of border crossings in Texas — echoing many conservatives — and scorched the “far left” of his party that “doesn’t understand reality.”
Cuellar made another Fox News appearance in September in which he lambasted the Biden administration’s border policies, saying he wants more deportations.
“They’re making it very hard for Democrats, where the Republicans are pouncing on Democrats, saying they’re not for secure borders,” Cuellar said.
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