Henry Cuellar, a previous Democratic primary target, touts 2024 support from national party leaders

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, walks into his election watch party to celebrate with supporters on election night, Nov. 8, 2022, in Laredo. (Jessica Rodriguez For The Texas Tribune, Jessica Rodriguez For The Texas Tribune)

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U.S. House Democratic leaders are endorsing Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, as he prepares to run for reelection after weathering two bruising primary battles in recent years.

On Thursday, Cuellar revealed the endorsements of Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark, Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn. He was also endorsed by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The endorsements were first shared with The Texas Tribune.

“Henry Cuellar is an accomplished advocate for the people of South Texas who is working hard to build an economy from the middle out and the bottom up,” Jeffries, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “I strongly endorse Congressman Cuellar and his continued representation of the people of the 28th congressional district.”

The endorsements make clear early in the election cycle that senior Democrats will continue to have Cuellar’s back after last year’s shakeup in House leadership. Jessica Cisneros, Cuellar’s primary challenger in 2020 and 2022, has not ruled out another run against the moderate Democrat.

The previous leadership team, led by Pelosi, D-Calif., stood by Cuellar as progressives went all-out to try to unseat him in back-to-back election cycles. Pelosi campaigned for him in Laredo in 2020 and recorded robocalls for him two years later.

Cuellar’s 2022 primary was particularly intense. Cisneros forced him into a runoff after the FBI raided Cuellar’s home in Laredo — the reason is still unknown — and then the primary runoff overlapped with the leaking of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. That drew unwelcome attention to Cuellar’s lonely status as an anti-abortion Democrat.

Clyburn, D-S.C., visited San Antonio during the runoff and held a rally for Cuellar. He told reporters there that Democrats need to be a “big-tent party.”

Cuellar won the runoff by fewer than than 300 votes. Cisneros requested a recount, which confirmed Cuellar’s victory about a month later.

National Republicans targeted Cuellar in the November election as part of a new push into South Texas. But he won by a larger-than-expected margin, defeating GOP challenger Cassy Garcia by 13 percentage points. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not named Cuellar a target for the 2024 election so far.

In his statement, Jeffries said “extreme MAGA Republicans” targeted Cuellar last year, but his constituents “decisively returned him back to Washington.”

As the current session of Congress began, Jeffries wasted little time showing that Cuellar remained in the good graces of leadership. Shortly after becoming minority leader, Jeffries toured Cuellar’s district and held a news conference with him in Laredo, where he praised the Texan’s expertise on the border.

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