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|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 28th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2005
|Preceded by||Ciro Rodriguez|
|102nd Secretary of State of Texas|
January 2, 2001 – October 5, 2001
|Preceded by||Elton Bomer|
|Succeeded by||Gwyn Shea|
|Member of the|
Texas House of Representatives
January 13, 1987 – January 2, 2001
|Preceded by||W.N. 'Billy' Hall, Jr.|
|Succeeded by||Richard Raymond|
|Constituency||43rd district (1987–93)|
42nd district (1993–2001)
Enrique Roberto Cuellar
September 19, 1955
Laredo, Texas, U.S.
|Education||Laredo Community College (AA)|
Georgetown University (BS)
University of Texas at Austin (JD, PhD)
Texas A&M International University (MA)
Enrique Roberto "Henry" Cuellar (//; born September 19, 1955) is an American politician currently serving as the U.S Representative for Texas's 28th congressional district, a position he has held since 2005. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district extends from the Rio Grande to the suburbs of San Antonio.
Early life and education
Cuellar was born in Laredo, the county seat of Webb County in South Texas, where he has resided most of his life. His Mexican-American parents, Martin Siller Cuellar Sr. (1926–2019), and the former Odilia Perez (1928–2015), a native of Zapata, Texas, traveled as far north as Idaho each year completing migrant labor until Martin found work as a gardener and ranch manager. With eight children, the Cuellar family lived on Reynolds Street in the Las Lomas neighborhood of "The Heights" area of Laredo. The parents knew no English but instilled a strong work ethic in their children.
Henry is the oldest of the Cuellars' children. His brother, Martin, Jr., is the sheriff of Webb County, having been first elected in 2008 over the incumbent fellow Democrat Rick Flores. A sister, Rosie Cuellar-Castillo, is the Laredo municipal judge, having won a nonpartisan runoff election held for that position on December 11, 2010.
Cuellar attended Buenos Aires Elementary School, where he became an avid reader, and graduated in 1973 from J. W. Nixon High School, a classmate of future Webb County District Attorney Joe Rubio, Jr. He received an associate of arts degree from Laredo Community College (then known as Laredo Junior College), where he later taught courses in government. He then attended the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in foreign service. He also holds a master's degree in International Trade from Texas A&M International University in Laredo and a Juris Doctor from the University of Texas School of Law and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, both in Austin.
Cuellar opened his own law firm in Laredo in 1981 and became a licensed customs broker in 1983. He worked at Texas A&M International University, as an adjunct professor of International Commercial Law from 1984 to 1986.
Texas House of Representatives
Cuellar was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1987 to 2001, having represented the major portion of Laredo. During his fourteen years as Laredo's state representative, he served in leadership positions in the House Appropriations, Higher Education, and Calendar committees. He also served on several national legislative committees dealing with state budgets, the U.S./Mexico border, and international trade.
Texas Secretary of State
In 2001, Cuellar was appointed as Secretary of State of Texas by Republican Governor Rick Perry, serving in the position for eight months. As of 2020, Cuellar is the last Democrat to serve as Secretary of State of Texas.
U.S. House of Representatives
In the 2002 election, Cuellar was the Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives in Texas's 23rd congressional district. He lost to five-term incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla by 52–47 in the closest race Bonilla had faced up to that date. Bonilla was unseated in 2006 in the revised 23rd District by the liberal Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.
Cuellar spent much of the early part of 2003 preparing for a rematch against Bonilla. The 2003 Texas redistricting, however, shifted most of Laredo, which had been the heart of the 23rd since its creation in 1966, into the 28th district, represented by Ciro Rodriguez. Cuellar challenged Rodriguez, a former friend, for the nomination and won it by fifty-eight votes.  The Washington Post described the campaign as "nasty ... with Cuellar claiming Rodriguez was an AWOL congressman, while Rodriguez called Cuellar a political opportunist". The initial count gave Rodriguez a 145-vote lead, but after a recount Cuellar led by 58 votes. "Rodriguez filed a lawsuit questioning the eligibility of hundreds of votes. A state appeals court ruling against Rodriguez guaranteed Cuellar the nomination." Cuellar's victory was one of only two primary upsets of incumbents, from either party, in the entire country.
The 28th district leans far more Democratic than the 23rd, and Cuellar's victory in the general election was a foregone conclusion. In November, he defeated Republican Jim Hopson of Seguin by a 20-point margin, becoming the first Laredoan in over 20 years elected to represent the 28th District of Texas. Cuellar's election to the House in 2004 was a standout for Democrats in a year in which Republicans otherwise gained seats in Texas's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On March 7, 2006, Cuellar again defeated Rodriguez in the Democratic primary with 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race. No Republican even attempted to file, ostensibly assuring him of reelection in November.
On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the Texas Legislature had violated the rights of Latino voters when it shifted most of Laredo out of the 23rd and replaced it with several heavily Republican San Antonio suburbs. As a result, nearly every congressional district from El Paso to San Antonio had to be redrawn, and the primary results for these districts were invalidated. A court drew a new map in which all of Laredo was moved into the 28th district while the south San Antonio area was moved to the 23rd. An election open to all candidates with a runoff if no candidate won 50% was scheduled for the date of the general election, November 7, 2006.
In the general election on November 7, 2006, Cuellar had no Republican opposition but handily defeated Ron Avery of McQueeney, the chairman of the conservative Constitution Party in Guadalupe County and trial attorney and Democrat Frank Enriquez of McAllen by taking nearly 68 percent of the more than 77,000 votes cast in the House race.
Cuellar's two main political rivals, Bonilla and Rodriguez, ran against each other in the 23rd, and Rodriguez won the election in the runoff. The Republican Bonilla was hence out of Congress for the first time since his upset election in 1992.
Cuellar was unopposed in the March 4, 2008, Democratic primary.
In the November 4 general election, Cuellar easily defeated Republican James Taylor Fish. Jim Fish, as he is known, was a health-care administrator for seventeen years while he served in the United States Air Force. He also taught finance at the Army-Baylor University Graduate School of Health Care Administration. Fish, an ordained Southern Baptist deacon, opposed same-sex marriage. Fish said that he had decided to oppose Cuellar after watching the congressman's exchange with Sheriff Rick Flores over border security issues on a 2007 broadcast of the Glenn Beck television program, then on CNN.
Cuellar received 123,310 votes (69 percent) to Fish's 52,394 (29 percent) and 3,715 (2 percent) for Libertarian Ross Lynn Leone. In his own Webb County, Cuellar polled 41,567 votes (90 percent) to Fish's 4,089 votes (9 percent).
Cuellar was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in 2010. Motivated by Cuellar's votes on cap and trade and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, two Republicans, Daniel Chavez, a utility company employee from Mission in Hidalgo County, and Bryan Keith Underwood, a carpenter from Seguin in Guadalupe County, filed for their party's nomination to oppose Cuellar in the November 2 general election. Underwood polled 13,599 votes (74 percent) to Chavez's 4,794 (26 percent).
Underwood raised more funds than Cuellar's previous Republican opponents, but questions were raised in Underwood's hometown newspaper, the Seguin Gazette, about his criminal record, which included a guilty plea for a felony criminal mischief charge, which is normally a misdemeanor. Underwood had also refused on one occasion to present his identification to a law enforcement officer.
Cuellar prevailed, as expected, with 62,055 votes (56 percent) to Underwood's 46,417 (42 percent). The remaining 1,880 votes (2 percent) were cast for Libertarian Party candidate Stephen Kaat. While Underwood won in Guadalupe, Wilson, McMullen, and Atascosa counties, Cuellar's margin in his own heavily Democratic Webb County (25,415 to 3,569) was more than enough assure him a seat in the incoming Republican-majority House of Representatives.
Cuellar was opposed in the November 6 general election by Republican William R. Hayward and the Libertarian Patrick Hisel. Hisel ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian in 2010 against the Republican U.S. Representative Kay Granger from the Tarrant County-based 12th District. Hisel's current city of residence is unknown.
Guadalupe County, a Republican stronghold that usually opposed Cuellar for reelection, was removed from the reconfigured District 28.
Cuellar faced no Republican opposition in 2014. Then Webb County Republican chairman Randall Scott "Randy" Blair (1960-2019) of Laredo criticized Cuellar's vote for the Obama health law in 2010 but said the GOP could not find an opposing candidate because of Cuellar's personal popularity, political longevity, occasional cooperation with Republicans, and strong campaign organization.
Cuellar won a rematch in the March 1, 2016 Democratic primary with former Republican congressional candidate William R. Hayward, who switched parties to run again for the House. Cuellar received 49,962 votes (89.8 percent) to Hayward's 5,682 votes (10.2 percent). Cuellar then defeated Republican Zeffen Patrick Hardin in the November 8, 2016 general election, 122,086 (66.2 percent) to 57,740 (31.3 percent). Michael D. Cary, nominee of the Green Party, received 4,616 votes (2.5 percent).
In the general election held on November 6, 2018, Cuellar overwhelmed his lone challenger, Libertarian Arthur Thomas, IV, 117,178 votes (84.4 percent) to 21,647 (15.6 percent).
On January 11, 2019, the progressive organization Justice Democrats, which supported the successful 2018 primary campaign in New York City for U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced that it was seeking a primary challenger against Cuellar in the Democratic primary scheduled for March 4, 2020. On July 13, 2019, Justice Democrats announced their support for Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration and human rights attorney from Laredo who has announced a primary campaign against Cuellar. However, Cuellar fended off the primary challenge by 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent.
Cuellar describes himself as a "moderate-centrist" or sometimes as a conservative Democrat. During the 115th Congress, he voted with President Donald Trump nearly 70% of the time, and he has advocated that more Democrats should embrace a more conservative voting record. Other sources have stated that he votes with the Republican party 75% of the time.
In 2010, Cuellar's ratings from various groups included the following: NARAL Pro-Choice America, 50; National Right to Life Center, 20; ACLU, 67; Human Rights Campaign, 70; American Conservative Union, 12; Americans for Democratic Action, 80; Drum Major Institute, A; Family Research Council, 29; Children's Defense Fund, 100; League of Conservation Voters, 100; Numbers USA, D; American Public Health Association, 89; Alliance for Retired Americans, 88; AFL-CIO, 81; National Education Association, A; AFSCME, 86; BIPAC, 60; Chamber of Commerce, 72; Club for Growth, 9; National Federation of Independent Business, 73; Taxes & Spending Americans for Tax Reform, 15; Citizens Against Government Waste, 22; National Taxpayers Union, 7; Defense and Peace Council for a Livable World, 50; Center for Security Policy, 50; Friends Committee on National Legislation, 50; Peace Action, 23; Gunowners of America, C (now F); Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 0.
On issues of gun control and the right to bear arms, he allies closely with the National Rifle Association, which gave him a 93% score for 2018. He is one of two Blue Dog Democrats in Texas's congressional delegation.
Cuellar's boosting of automated license plate recognition federal contractor Perceptics LLC was published in February 2020, showing lobbying by Podesta Group from 2009 onwards, including Cuellar using talking points related to Perceptics contracts. He was called "our Cuellar firepower" and described by Perceptics CEO John Dalton as a "friendly congressman" for the company.
On February 10, 2010, The Hill wrote that Cuellar "votes against his party. He rejected the first House bailout bill, which was voted down, but backed the final version that passed in the fall of 2008. Cuellar was also one of 27 Democrats who opposed the House financial regulatory reform bill, a top priority for Obama. As of June 7, 2017, Cuellar has voted with president Trump 70% of the time, the highest percentage of any Democrat in Congress." Cuellar consistently works with members on both sides of the aisle, a rarity for House members. In fact, he says his best friend in the lower chamber is a Republican: Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas)."
Cuellar was ranked the fifth most bipartisan member of the House of Representatives in the first session of the 115th United States Congress by the Lugar Center and Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy.
On June 26, 2009, Cuellar voted with the House majority to pass, 219–212, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the cap and trade bill He also supported the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which narrowly passed the House and in December 2009 met the threshold for shutting off debate in the U.S. Senate by a single vote. As an anti-abortion Democrat, Cuellar expressed concerns that the Senate health care bill allowed federal funding for abortion. He has voted for a ban on abortion after week 20. Cuellar voted on March 21, 2010, for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which passed the chamber by a vote of 219–212.
On June 15, 2007, Cuellar announced that he was endorsing then U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton for President in 2008, saying that "Senator Clinton is the only candidate with the experience and toughness to hit the ground running on her first day in the White House." In 2007, Cuellar held a fundraiser for Clinton in Laredo, which raised over $200,000 – aided by the presence of former President Bill Clinton. Laredo's Democratic Mayor Raul G. Salinas joined Cuellar in giving his early support to Hillary Clinton, who came to Laredo in October 2008 to endorse Cuellar's reelection to the U.S. House. On November 4, 2008, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain in Webb County with 71% of the vote to McCain's 28%.
Congressman Cuellar is the author and one of two main co-sponsors of legislation seeking to honor slain ICE agent Jaime Zapata. Billed as a border security bill, it would increase cooperation among state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies during investigations of human and drug smuggling from Mexico.
On July 24, 2013, Cuellar voted to continue funding NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens who are not suspected of committing any crime, in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights according to some views of the Bill of Rights.
In 2013, in a statement with House colleagues Beto O'Rourke of El Paso and Filemon Vela of Brownsville, Cuellar renewed his opposition to a border fence along the Rio Grande between the United States and Mexico. He denounced inclusion in the Senate immigration bill of an amendment sponsored by Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, which calls for seven hundred additional miles of border fencing. Cuellar called the fence an antiquated solution to a new-age problem. The fence, he said, ignores the economic ties between the two nations which reached $500 billion in 2012.
In 2014, Cuellar was the only House Democrat to vote for a House bill that would have made it easier to deport unaccompanied minors to Central America. He also released unauthorized photographs of unsanitary conditions in Border Patrol detention centers. Despite these actions, Cuellar said he is firmly in support of "comprehensive immigration reform".
In May 2015, Cuellar called for 55 more federal judges to handle the overload of some 450,000 immigration cases. There were 260 such judges in 58 courts. Twenty-eight of the judges serve Texas; no immigration judge holds court in Laredo. Many of those awaiting hearings are held in detention centers or released on bond. In many cases those on bond never come to their scheduled hearings. Cuellar said South Texas and Laredo have particular need for the judges.
On July 23, 2015, the occasion of Donald Trump's Republican presidential campaign visit to Laredo, the Democrat Cuellar said that the New York City business tycoon has "overgeneralized and exacerbated a rhetoric of immigrant crime that has offended many, particularly those of Mexican heritage". Cuellar added that Trump's meeting with border officials provided an opportunity for him to view Laredo as a "culturally-rich and safe border community". In April 2017, Cuellar issued a statement which accuses President Trump with: "threatening to shut down the government if he doesn't get to build his symbolic border wall. He wants to cut things like education, transportation, and health care, to fund his pet project. Now that he is facing bipartisan opposition to this irresponsible plan, he wants to punish the American people by shutting down the government."
Cuellar was one of three Democrats to vote for Kate's Law, which expands maximum sentences for immigrants who re-enter the United States after being deported. He supported legislation to strip federal funding for jurisdictions that have sanctuary policies in place.
On December 18, 2019, Cuellar voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.
According to one measure, Cuellar voted with President Trump more than any other Democrat in Congress, except one.
Cueller received the most financial contributions by the private prison industry than any member of Congress, except one Republican.
- Committee on Appropriations
- Committee on Homeland Security
- Afterschool Caucuses
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus
- Blue Dog Coalition
- Co-Chair United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus
- U.S.-Japan Caucus
Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, have two daughters. The city of Laredo has recognized him by naming two schools in his honor: the Doctor Henry Cuellar Elementary School and the Representative Henry Cuellar Charter School.
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- "Cueller, Henry, (1955–)". Biographical directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
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- David McCumber of Hearst Newspapers, "From the House on the Hill: Congressman looks back at his life", Laredo Morning Times, September 29, 2014, pp. 1, 7A.
- Nick Georgiou, "Judge vote is closest: Cuellar-Castillo wins by 9.4 points", Laredo Morning Times, December 12, 2010, p. 1
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- O'Keefe, Ed (July 24, 2012). "Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)". The Washington Post.
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- Julian Aguilar, "Jim Fish steps up to run against Cuellar for House", Laredo Morning Times, October 10, 2008, p. 3A
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- "General Election Results". Texas Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
- "Final voting results from the November 2018 general and special elections in Webb County". The Laredo Morning Times. November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
- Weigel, David (January 11, 2019). "Left-wing group creates fund to oust Texas Democrat from Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Nilsen, Ella (2019-06-13). "Justice Democrats have a primary challenger for Rep. Henry Cuellar — their top target". Vox. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
- "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
- Malone, Clare (2017-02-10). "A Q&A With The House Democrat Who's Voted With Trump 75 Percent Of The Time". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
- Lee Fang (March 4, 2020). "Jessica Cisneros, a Progressive Favorite, Loses to Incumbent Henry Cuellar". theintercept.com. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
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- "Emails Show Rep. Henry Cuellar Provided Extensive Favors to Border Security Lobbyists". The Intercept. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
about pilots going on at Laredo that sound a lot like Perceptics’
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- "Rep. Cuellar Ranked 5th Most Bipartisan Member in Cognress". McAllen, Texas: Texas Border Business. April 25, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
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- JJ Velasquez, "Immigration Reform: Cuellar sounds off on Senate bill", Laredo Morning Times, July 5, 2013, pp. 1, 9A.
- Gabriela A. Trevino, "Rep wants more judges: Immigration cases await hearings", Laredo Morning Times, May 18, 2015, pp. 1, 12A
- Kendra Ablaza, "Trump visits Laredo: To meet with law enforcement, Laredo Morning Times, July 23, 2015, pp. 1, 7A.
- "Laredo congressman: Trump wants to 'punish the American people' with shutdown". Laredo Morning Times. April 24, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
- "First shot fired in Democratic civil war as 8-term incumbent gets a challenger". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
- "Private Prison Campaign Cash Still Welcomed by Some Democrats in the Trump Era". Rewire.News. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
- Laredo Morning Times, December 15, 2012, p. 3
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- "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
- "Members". U.S. - Japan Caucus. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
- Miguel Timoshenkov, "Congressman, educator named new George, Martha", Laredo Morning Times, April 2, 2013, p. 3A
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Cuellar.|
- Congressman Henry Cuellar official U.S. House website
- Henry Cuellar for Congress
- Henry Cuellar at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Ballotpedia profile
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
|Texas House of Representatives|
| Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 43rd district
| Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 42nd district
| Secretary of State of Texas
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 28th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Communications
Served alongside: Jim Costa (Administration), Dan Lipinski (Policy)
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority