Throughout Tuesday evening, Cuellar and Cisneros jockeyed for first place. The third candidate played the spoiler for the two frontrunners, pulling in nearly 5 percent and preventing either from exceeding 50 percent.
In the 2020 primary, Cuellar fended off Cisneros by less than a few thousand votes.
“After winning the most votes and showing the largest amount of support, we will now move to a runoff…and we are confident we will win,” Cuellar said in a statement on Wednesday.
Cisneros showed similar confidence for her candidacy, saying, “On May 24, when I turn 29 years old, I expect to be the Democratic nominee for this district.”
Her candidacy is backed by a bevy of national progressive groups and figures, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Justice Democrats, the group most responsible for the New York congresswoman’s rise.
Cuellar is a target from his party’s left flank because he is a moderate who often declines to jump on board with the most progressive of policy suggestions pushed by that faction.
The incumbent’s re-election was made more complicated when he became the subject of an FBI probe that has yet to implicate him in any crimes.
The district, which stretches from Bexar County down to a long stretch of the southern border, features high population urban centers and sparsely populated border towns.
Initial returns Wednesday morning with almost everything reporting showed Cuellar missing out on avoiding the runoff by less than 10 votes. But an error in Starr County caused an overcount for Cuellar, which when corrected put him firmly in runoff territory.
The 28th Congressional District is rated D-56% by The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index, which means it favors Democrats, but not as heavily as other districts. The eventual Democratic nominee will be favored in the November general election but will not be able to mail it in against the Republican, yet to be decided between Cassy Garcia and Sandra Whitten who are also in a runoff.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.