Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2004, 5th term.

Born: September 19, 1955, Laredo

Home: Laredo

Education: Georgetown U., B.S. 1976, U. of TX, J.D. 1981, Ph.D. 1998, TX A&M U., M.A. 1982

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1981-2004.

Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino

Religion: Catholic

Family: married (Imelda) , 2 children

Henry Cuellar, elected in 2004, is one of the most conservative Hispanic Democrats, with a voting record putting him near the center of the House as a whole. But he has shown enough loyalty to his party to win a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee in 2013.

Cuellar (KWAY-ar) was the oldest of eight children of migrant workers who had only elementary school educations. He graduated from Georgetown University and the University of Texas law school, and he later got a Ph.D. in government from UT. From his base in Laredo, he served in the Texas House from 1986 to 2000, where he helped to author the Texas Grant college aid program. In 2001, Republican Gov. Rick Perry appointed him secretary of State even though he is a Democrat.

Cuellar resigned in 2002 to run against veteran Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla in the old 23rd District. He got a big boost from a Bonilla gaffe; Bonilla claimed he didn’t need Laredo to win, and in response, the Webb County Republican chairman endorsed Cuellar. Cuellar attacked Bonilla for his votes against funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and Pell grants. Bonilla had the money advantage. Cuellar carried Webb County 84%-15%, but only when the Bexar County votes were counted a few days later was it clear that Bonilla had won 52%-47%.

Redistricting in 2003 strengthened Bonilla in the 23rd District, but it also gave Cuellar an opportunity to run in the 28th against incumbent Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio, who had the most liberal voting record of Texas’ Hispanic Democrats in Congress and was chairman of the Hispanic Caucus. When Cuellar announced his candidacy, Rodriguez expressed disbelief that a friend and former legislative colleague for whom he had raised money in 2002 would run against him. The ambitious Cuellar explained that primary bids like his were a common political occurrence in South Texas. He sealed the end of the friendship when he told a local reporter, “Nobody died and made him king.”

Rodriguez had little time to get acquainted with the new district; the March primary took place just five months after the map became official. Cuellar criticized Rodriguez for voting against the GOP’s 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, while Rodriguez pointed up Cuellar’s collusion with Republicans as secretary of State. The initial vote count showed Rodriguez ahead by 145 votes, but a subsequent recount put Cuellar ahead by 203 votes. After a lawsuit, a second recount, and a state appellate court ruling in July, Cuellar was declared the Democratic nominee by 58 votes out of 49,000 cast. He went on to win in November 59%-39%. Later, in September 2007, the Federal Election Commission fined Cuellar $28,500 for failing to disclose a $200,000 bank loan in his 2004 campaign.

In the House, Cuellar was the ninth most conservative Democrat in 2012, according to National Journal’s annual rankings. He is a member of the rapidly shrinking Blue Dog Coalition of Democratic fiscal conservatives and was one of just 22 Democrats to support a failed amendment for a fiscal 2013 budget based on the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission. Since President Barack Obama took office, however, Cuellar has been more inclined to join his party on major legislation. A major exception in the 111th Congress (2009-10) was the Dodd-Frank financial industry overhaul. Cuellar was one of 19 Democrats—many of them members of the Blue Dogs —to oppose it. He also joined other Texas delegation members in voting against lifting the financial liability cap on oil spills in 2010.

Before joining Appropriations, Cuellar served on the Homeland Security Committee and won the chairmanship of its border security subcommittee in January 2010. He got into a spat with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren in 2011 after two retired generals issued a report characterizing the Texas border as a “war zone.” Cuellar aggressively challenged their conclusions, prompting Van Susteren to accuse him of “disgraceful behavior” and being “a phony.” He called for a new strategy to replace the Merida Initiative security agreement with Mexico that would improve the State Department’s management and speed up money for training and equipment. He also helped broker a 2010 agreement between the Homeland Security Department and Federal Aviation Administration to use unmanned drones along the border for the first time.

Cuellar has emphasized a bipartisan approach and as a result has had success getting legislation passed. With Republican help, he won passage of a bill to create a national gang intelligence center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to toughen penalties for sex offenders who break the terms of their release. He also got a bill into law in 2010 requiring federal agencies to establish measurable performance goals and devise systems for tracking them. And in 2012, the House passed his bill requiring the Office of Management and Budget to establish customer service standards for federal agencies.

In Cuellar’s first reelection bid in 2006, Rodriguez was back to challenge him in the primary, but struggled to match him in fundraising. Cuellar won the primary comfortably this time, 53% to 40%. He has won reelection easily since then.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-1640

(202) 225-1641

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2209
Washington, DC 20515-4328

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-1640

(202) 225-1641

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2209
Washington, DC 20515-4328

DISTRICT OFFICE

(210) 271-2851

(210) 277-2647

615 East Houston Street Suite 563
San Antonio, TX 78205-2054

DISTRICT OFFICE

(210) 271-2851

(210) 277-2647

615 East Houston Street Suite 563
San Antonio, TX 78205-2054

DISTRICT OFFICE

(956) 725-0639

(956) 424-3936

602 East Calton Road Suite 2
Laredo, TX 78041-3693

DISTRICT OFFICE

(956) 725-0639

(956) 424-3936

602 East Calton Road Suite 2
Laredo, TX 78041-3693

DISTRICT OFFICE

(956) 424-3942

(956) 631-3936

117 East Tom Landry
Mission City, TX 78572-4610

DISTRICT OFFICE

(956) 424-3942

(956) 631-3936

117 East Tom Landry
Mission City, TX 78572-4610

DISTRICT OFFICE

(956) 487-5603

(956) 488-0952

100 North Farm to Market Road 3167
Rio Grande City, TX 78582-6688

DISTRICT OFFICE

(956) 487-5603

(956) 488-0952

100 North Farm to Market Road 3167
Rio Grande City, TX 78582-6688

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(956) 724-1212

1519 Washington Street Suite 200
Laredo, TX 78040

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

1519 Washington Street Suite 200
Laredo, TX 78040

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Louise Bentsen
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Ryan Ehly
Legislative Director

ryan.ehly@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-1640

Education

Juan Sanchez
Legislative Fellow

Grants

Juan Sanchez
Legislative Fellow

Patrick O'Connor
Staff Assistant; Legislative Correspondent

Telecommunications

Ryan Ehly
Legislative Director

ryan.ehly@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-1640

Transportation

Louise Bentsen
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Henry Cuellar
Votes: 112,456
Percent: 67.89%
William Hayward
Votes: 49,309
Percent: 29.77%
2012 PRIMARY
Henry Cuellar
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Henry Cuellar
Votes: 62,773
Percent: 56.35%
Bryan Underwood
Votes: 46,740
Percent: 41.96%
2010 PRIMARY
Henry Cuellar
Votes: 48,634
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Henry Cuellar
Votes: 123,494
Percent: 68.71%
Jim Fish
Votes: 52,524
Percent: 29.22%
2008 PRIMARY
Henry Cuellar
Votes: 84,819
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (56%), 2008 (69%), 2006 (68%), 2004 (59%)

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