Cisneros would have become the youngest woman elected to Congress, but her movement isn't over yet

By Kimberly Truong
Updated Mar 04, 2020 @ 2:45 pm
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We may all be debating the results from Super Tuesday in the midst of a crucial election year, but the presidential primary wasn't the only consequential vote that happened yesterday. On Tuesday, 26-year-old progressive Democrat Jessica Cisneros ran a historical campaign against incumbent Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in a landmark election. Widely touted as "the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," Cisneros was in the running to break Ocasio-Cortez's record as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

However, when the vote was called, Cuellar defeated her by a slim margin, leading by 52%.

Though she may not have won, Cisneros has had an unprecedented campaign that represents a wave of young people trying to change the shape of Congress. Here's everything you need to know about her.

What is Cisneros's Platform?

Cisneros, a human rights lawyer, ran for Texas's 28th congressional district, which serves a strip in the deep south of the state running from south of San Antonio to the U.S.—Mexico border. As the child of Mexican immigrants, Cisneros has advocated for immigration reform as part of her platform. Her progressive platform also included the Green New Deal and Medicare For All.

Who Endorsed Her?

Cisneros nabbed endorsements from key Democrats including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Julián Castro, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

Ahead of Cisneros's primary, Ocasio-Cortez said, "If she's able to pull this off tomorrow, it will be profoundly energizing. I, for one, could not think of a better way to be the shortest-lived youngest woman in Congress and I would absolutely be thrilled to hand that off to her tomorrow."

Why Has Her Campaign Been So Historic?

Cisneros ran against Cuellar — who she was an intern for in 2014 — and in doing so, pit herself up against the man she has called "Donald Trump's favorite Democrat."

"It took me having to go to Washington to figure out how conservative he was," Cisneros told BuzzFeed News. "I think about that experience a lot, because I get it when we go up to people's doors and all of a sudden we, you know, hit them with the facts and what the congressman's been up to, [and] many, many people don't know."

Cuellar, a conservative Democrat, has voted in line with Trump 75% of the time, and has represented TX-28 for 15 years. He now serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. While Cisneros was endorsed by other progressive Democrats, Cuellar was backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who swung by his campaign office days before the primary and called for a "resounding victory."

If Cisneros won, she would have been the youngest woman elected to Congress and the first woman to represent her district — as well as the first Latina woman.

What's Next for Her?

Cisneros has made it clear that this is just the beginning for her, and told supporters that "our movement has already won" before the results were called.

In a speech on Wednesday, she thanked supporters and said, "This victory wasn't measured by whether we won last night or not. This victory was always going to be measured by teaching us the skills to organize."

"I am so incredibly proud of Jessica Cisneros," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "At 26 years old, she ran for office for the first time to offer TX28 new leadership that fights for workers, gender rights,& a climate agenda. She stood up to Koch brother money & incumbency, & she came closer than anyone imagined."

Cisneros may have narrowly lost this time, but there's no indication that she – and the idea that young woman can and will run for office – will be going anywhere.