“At a time when our reproductive freedoms are under attack by an extremist Supreme Court, we must elect pro-choice candidates that will fight to make sure abortion remains the law of the land. Jessica Cisneros embodies the kind of progressive we need in Congress,” Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement to POLITICO released Thursday.
Cuellar, the only House Democrat who opposes abortion rights, is facing a competitive runoff election next Tuesday in his Texas district against Cisneros, who has sought to make abortion a top issue in the race in the wake of a disclosure earlier this month of a draft Supreme Court decision that revealed the Supreme Court had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Jayapal has repeatedly told reporters she would not wade into the primary, even though she endorsed Cisneros in her 2020 primary bid against Cuellar — a close race ultimately decided by a few percentage points. Only four sitting House members and two senators have endorsed Cisneros this cycle.
And while progressive groups and the Squad haven’t been afraid to endorse a challenger, Jayapal has been more careful this cycle, especially as she weighs a bid for leadership in the next Congress. The Progressive Caucus’ PAC as a rule does not endorse against incumbents, though individual members of the caucus have endorsed primary challengers in previous cycles.
It is generally rare for sitting members of Congress to endorse a primary challenge to an incumbent, and Democrats have had even less appetite to endorse against incumbents this year with the House majority at stake. But for Jayapal, the debate over abortion ended up being a tipping point in her decision to back Cisernos.
“I don’t make the decision to endorse an opponent to a colleague in my caucus lightly,” she said. “However, the freedom for people to make choices about our own bodies is at stake, and I simply cannot stand by when there is a strong pro-choice, pro-worker Democrat ready to step in.”
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