In Ms. Cisneros’ campaign he sees: an identity-first approach, casually switching between English and Spanishtalks about identification with South Texas and its struggles, contrasts that with the outsiders in Washington, then turns to issues of health care and reproductive rights.
After Trump’s turmoil, the region could be ready for a new approach, said Cecilia Ballí, an anthropologist and researcher at the University of Houston who conducted extensive interviews in South Texas following Trump’s 2020 win. run by insular political families like Mr Cuellar’s. His brother is the Sheriff of Laredo’s Webb County; his sister is a former municipal judge and tax collector there.
Ms. Ballí said that without real competition between the parties, Democrats have won loyalty with meetings and free food, but without an emphasis on issues or retail politics. Trump’s personality-driven bombardment of outsiders broke through among many disillusioned Spanish voters.
Ms Cisneros agreed: “They’ve been voting Democrat for so long, and clearly the poverty rate hasn’t fallen, the uninsured rate hasn’t fallen. People still need two or three jobs to make ends meet.” she said. Add to that the pandemic and the closing of border crossings that have paralyzed Laredo trade, “and I think that just led to the perfect storm.”
Cuellar has weapons of his own: an unparalleled network of donors in the political establishment and a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, from which he has operated the sprawling district with federal generosity of $45.52 million in transportation projects for Atascosa County in the North District. up to $15,142,000 for livestock health in southern Zapata County.
Then there’s the fear that a March 1 victory for Cisneros would land the new confident Republicans’ seat. Ms Cisneros insists she is the answer to the Republican turnout, an outsider voice that gives hope to the frustrations in the region. Changes to the realignment made the 28th even slightly more Democratic, with more voters from San Antonio’s Bexar County, a potential boon to Ms. Cisneros’ chances — on Tuesday and into November. The district moved from 76.9 percent Hispanic to 75.3 percent, but a slight increase in the number of Anglo voters could help Ms. Cisneros even if those new voters are liberals from San Antonio.
But Mr. Cuellar handily defeated his Republican challenger in 2020, taking 58 percent of the vote, while Mr. Biden took 51.5 percent. Those Trump-Cuellar voters could move to the Republican House candidate emerging from the seven-candidate primary.