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For South Texas Democrats, an Intraparty Test of Abortion Politics


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These voters, several of whom expressed support for abortion rights but said they’d still vote for an anti-abortion congressman, revealed the uphill battle Ms. Cisneros faces as she tries to persuade voters to oust a well-known political figure whose family has long been a fixture in the neighborhood. Even amongst Democrats, support for abortion rights may not uniformly motivate voters, particularly working-class Latinos — a demographic that has shown signs of drifting away from the party.

Hector Gomez, 67, has known Mr. Cuellar since they were classmates at J.W. Nixon High School within the Seventies, and has voted for the congressman in every election since he first ran in 2006.

“He’s doing his job,” said Mr. Gomez, an antique store owner, adding that although he’s Catholic and against abortion, the difficulty doesn’t determine his vote. “Mr. Cuellar is the perfect alternative because he’s not someone you’ll be able to just brush off.”

Texas’ twenty eighth Congressional District stretches from the Mexican border to San Antonio, and Laredo is its political center. A working-class city, it has been a Democratic stronghold for many years but stays culturally conservative, with residents who fill Catholic church pews on Sundays. Many describe themselves as apolitical, and said they’re more focused on making ends meet than staking out positions on partisan political issues.

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Before this week’s leaked Supreme Court opinion, abortion had not been the central issue in the first campaign, though several national abortion rights groups had invested heavily within the district, specializing in the brand new state abortion restrictions in Texas. Ms. Cisneros didn’t run a television commercial on the difficulty until late last month, in response to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Until the deal with abortion was renewed this week, the runoff had been a mostly sleepy affair, with observers predicting an especially low turnout.

Now, Ms. Cisneros and her supporters have moved to make use of the threat to abortion rights as a primary motivator for each voters and donors.

“We’re really at a moment where individuals are fired up and so they know the way much they’re susceptible to losing,” said Kristin Ford, the vp of communications and research at the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Alternative America, which has sent organizers to Laredo to campaign for Ms. Cisneros.

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