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Elizabeth Warren backs primary challengers against sitting House Democrats

Warren is endorsing Jessica Cisneros against Henry Cuellar and Marie Newman against Dan Lipinski

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar’s former intern Jessica Cisneros and Marie Newman, who is running against moderate Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar’s former intern Jessica Cisneros and Marie Newman, who is running against moderate Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorsed two House Democratic primary challengers Monday, backing two women taking on sitting lawmakers.

The Massachusetts Democrat is endorsing Marie Newman, who is taking on Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd District and immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, who is challenging Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th District, Justice Democrats announced in a news release.

Lipinski and Cuellar are two of three remaining House Democrats who have voted against abortion rights and Warren referenced women’s reproductive health in her statement backing Newman.

“At a time when women’s reproductive rights are under attack daily from Republican lawmakers across America, Illinoisans deserve a leader with an unwavering commitment to fighting for women’s access to reproductive health care,” Warren said. “Marie Newman is that leader.”

Newman, a businesswoman, nearly defeated Lipinski in a primary in 2018. Warren did not endorse Newman in that race last year. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another presidential contender, has also endorsed Newman’s 2020 race and backed her in 2018.

Cisneros, who is Cuellar’s former intern, launched her campaign in June with the backing of Justice Democrats, the group that supported New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her successful 2018 primary race. Cisneros said Cuellar is too conservative for the district and Warren made a similar assertion in her endorsement.

“The people of Texas’ 28th district are ready for systematic change and deserve a Democrat that will be on the side of working people; not the side of big money and obstructionist Republicans,” Warren said in a statement circulated by Cisneros’ campaign.

Warren, a top Democrat in the crowded presidential race, said Cisneros “knows our diversity knows our diversity is our strength and that when progressives are unapologetic about our values and who we’re in this battle for, we win.”

Warren’s campaign reached out to Cisneros’ campaign over the weekend, according to Cisneros’ campaign manager Danny Diaz, who said he expected Warren to roll out additional congressional endorsements. Cisneros has not endorsed Warren or any of the other presidential candidates, and Diaz said they have not heard from any other candidates.

Warren and Cisneros have not spoken directly but Cisneros was invited to Warren’s town hall in Austin on Tuesday. Warren’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“I think an endorsement like this puts more eyes on our congressional race,” Diaz said.

Diaz said he expected a boost in fundraising, and the campaign has raised $250,000 so far. But Cuellar so far holds a financial advantage. At the end of the most recent fundraising quarter on June 30, Cuellar had more than $3 million in his campaign account, while Cisneros had $125,000, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

Cuellar is a former chairman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. He has expressed confidence that he knows his district better than the more liberal Democrats angling to take him on.

Campaign spokesman Colin Strother knocked Warren and Cisneros’ support for liberal policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

“Warren and our opponent share the same job killing agenda that would send the Texas economy back to the stone age,” Strother said. “The Green New Deal alone would kill 30,000 jobs in our district specifically… Their version of a health care plan would take away the negotiated benefits for every one of our brother and sisters in our labor unions and shut down our rural hospitals.”

“It’s no surprise really and I think they both have an equal chance of being elected to the offices they seek,” Strother said. “So it doesn’t change anything that we’re doing today or we’re doing tomorrow … We’ll let the voters decide.”

Cuellar’s 28th District runs along the southern Texas border. He won re-election with 84 percent of the vote in 2018 and didn’t even face a Republican challenger (his opponent was Libertarian). Hillary Clinton won the 28th District by 20 points in 2016.

Lipinski won reelection in the 3rd District, which includes urban and suburban areas outside of Chicago, by 48 points after defeating Newman by 2 points in the 2018 primary. Clinton carried the district by 15 points in 2016.

He said in a statement that Warren’s endorsement,  “proves the point of Washington pundits that Warren has moved from independent fact-based thinking to ideological orthodoxy.”

He called Newman “an ideologue” who has “parroted the talking points of radicals” instead of focusing on the needs of her district. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates both races Solidly Democratic.

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