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AOC-backed challenger targets conservative Texas Democrat ahead of Super Tuesday primary

   Updated 7:02 AM ET, Thu February 27, 2020

   (CNN) - Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration attorney, is launching an all-out attack on Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar just days before the Tuesday primary in Texas.

   Cuellar, one of the most conservative Hispanic Democrats, has represented a district that stretches from San Antonio to Laredo along the US-Mexico border for 15 years and now serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. But Cisneros, his former intern, has presented a fierce challenge from the left, supporting "Medicare for All" and a "Green New Deal," and reportedly outraising Cuellar in the first six weeks of 2020.

   In a new video released on Thursday morning, Cisneros calls Cuellar "Trump's favorite Democrat," claiming the congressman "voted with Republicans to stop DACA, to defund Planned Parenthood and to fund Trump's wall." Her campaign points out that Cuellar votes with Trump nearly 70% of the time.

   Colin Strother, a Cuellar campaign spokesman, said the attacks were "a gross misrepresentation of his record." He claimed that Cuellar is one of Congress' strongest supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provided legal protections for young adults who illegally came to the US. He said Cuellar opposes the border wall but voted for major spending bills to fund the government, while working to protect parks and refuges in the Rio Grande Valley from new physical barriers. And he said that Cuellar's anti-abortion stance did not mean that he wanted to stop funding for Planned Parenthood.

   "In South Texas, we would sum this up very simply in saying these are the last kicks of a drowning man, in this case, a drowning woman," Strother said.

   "Henry has taken Trump on on any number of issues," said Strother. "He voted to impeach the guy for Christ's sake."

   The video released Thursday also describes Cisneros' background and affinity for her border town community, noting her parents, a truck-driver father and a homemaker mother, came from Mexico.

   "You hear about us, but you never really hear from us," she says, as a clip of Trump attacking Mexicans plays in the background. "I never saw myself running for Congress at 26, but we need someone who is going to stand up for us, against Trump's hatred."

   Cisneros' background and policy positions have drawn comparisons to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman phenom and New York Democrat who has endorsed her. Cisneros' race is one of the few competitive House Democratic primaries in the country, attracting the attention of powerful advocacy groups across the country. Cisneros is supported by Texas AFL-CIO, Justice Democrats, a progressive group that backed Ocasio-Cortez, and EMILY's List, which supports Democratic women in favor of abortion rights.

   But Cuellar has the support of dozens of local officials and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who swung by Cuellar's campaign headquarters calling for a "resounding victory" last weekend. Cisneros has knocked Cueller for taking money from liberal bogeyman like the oil industry, Chamber of Commerce, a Koch-funded group and, as recently as 2018, the National Rifle Association.

   Cuellar's campaign is projecting confidence ahead of the election.

   "There are zero indications that he will not win by a sizable, comfortable margin," Strother said.

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