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Henry Roberto Cuellar (born September 19, 1955) is a Democratic politician from Laredomarker, Texasmarker, who represents his state's 28th Congressional district ( map) in the United States House of Representatives. Cuellar's district extends from the Rio Grandemarker to the suburbs of San Antoniomarker, including Guadalupe Countymarker.

Texas Political Career

Cuellar was born in Laredo, the seat of Webb County in southern Texas, where he has resided most of his life. Cuellar's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin S. Cuellar, were migrant workers who never completed schooling beyond the fifth grade. He is the oldest of nine children.

Cuellar graduated in 1973 from J. W. Nixon High School, a classmate of future Webb County District Attorney Joe Rubio, Jr. Cuellar then procured an associate's degree from Laredo Community Collegemarker (then known as Laredo Junior College), where he would later for a time instruct government courses on an adjunct basis. He then attended the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Universitymarker in Washington, D.C.marker, 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 Universitymarker in Laredo and a Juris Doctor and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austinmarker. With a total of five degrees, Cuellar is the most degreed member of Congress serving in the House.

Cuellar opened his own law firm in 1981 and became a licensed customs broker in 1983. He worked at his alma mater, TAMIU, as an Adjunct Professor for International Commercial Law from 1984 to 1986.

Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, have two daughters, Christina Alexandra and Catherine Ann.

Texas House of Representatives

Prior to being elected to the United States 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 14 years as Laredo’s state representative, he served in leadership positions in the House Appropriations, Higher Education, and Calendar committees. His most notable accomplishments in the Texas State Legislature included coauthoring the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which ensured health care for thousands of previously uninsured children, and cosponsoring the largest tax cut in Texas history, which included a three-day tax holiday for consumers and small businesses. 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. As Secretary of State, he supported new voter initiatives to register, educate, and protect voters’ rights, as well as efforts to expand the Border/Mexico Affairs office to help the colonias. He also implemented new technology to make state agencies more customer-friendly and results-oriented.

Congressional career

2002 Congressional Election

In the 2002 election, Cuellar was the Democratic Party nominee for the House of Representatives in Texas's 23rd congressional district. He lost to five-term incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla by two percentage points in the closest race Bonilla had faced to that date. Bonilla was unseated in 2006 in the revised 23rd District.

2004 Congressional Election

Cuellar spent much of the early part of 2003 preparing for a rematch against Bonilla. However, the 2003 Texas redistricting shifted most of Laredo, which had been the heart of the 23rd since its creation in 1966, into the 28th district, represented by Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. Cuellar challenged Rodriguez for the nomination and won it by 58 votes. 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 Seguinmarker 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 gained seats in Texas' delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives because of redistricting.

2006 Congressional Election

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.marker Supreme Courtmarker declared that the Texas Legislature violated the rights of Latino voters when it shifted most of Laredo out of the 23rd and replaced it with several heavily Republican San Antoniomarker suburbs. As a result, nearly every congressional district from El Pasomarker 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 McQueeneymarker, the chairman of the conservative Constitution Party in Guadalupe County and trial attorney and Democrat Frank Enriquez of McAllen, taking nearly 68% of the 77,000+ votes.

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.

2008 Congressional Election

Cuellar was unopposed in the March 4, 2008, Democratic primary.

In the November 4 general election, Cuellar easily defeated Republican James Taylor Fish (born 1958), a San Antoniomarker-based health care consultant who resides in Cibolomarker in Guadalupe County. 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 in the Army-Baylor Universitymarker Graduate School of Health Care Administration. Fish, an ordained Southern Baptist deacon, opposed same-sex marriage. Fish said that he decided to oppose Cuellar after watching the congressman's exchange with Sheriff Rick Flores over border security issues during a 2007 broadcast of the Glenn Beck television program on CNN.

Cuellar received 123,310 votes (68.7 percent) to Fish's 52,394 (29.2 percent) and 3,715 ballots (2.1 percent) for Libertarian Ross Lynn Leone (born September 8, 1946) of Seguin. In his native Webb County, Cuellar polled 41,567 votes (89.5 percent) to Fish's 4,089 votes (8.9 percent).

Career in Congress

Cuellar has not always been a party loyalist; he endorsed Republican George W. Bush for President in 2000 but supported John F. Kerry in 2004. Additionally, during Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, a Washington Post photographer snapped a photo of Cuellar standing on the Republican side of the aisle, beaming as President Bush affectionately grabbed his face. Soon after the release of this photo, campaign contributions for his Democratic primary opponent, Ciro Rodriguez, saw an immediate and significant increase. Cuellar defeated Rodriguez in the primary election and since then has seen an increased role within the Democratic House Caucus. He has been given a Senior Whip position within the caucus and is also the Subcommittee Chairman for Homeland Security Preparedness, First Responders, and Communications. Cuellar also serves as the only Texas Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Cuellar describes himself as a "moderate-centrist". In the 2006 primary, he gained the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that usually endorses Republicans.

He is a member of the New Democrat Coalition.

Cuellar has been recognized by the city of Laredo with two schools named in his honor: the Doctor Henry Cuellar Elementary School and the Representative Henry Cuellar Charter School.

Committee Assignments

2008 presidential election

On June 15, 2007, Cuellar announced that he was endorsing U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for President in 2008. "Senator Clinton is the only candidate with the experience and toughness to hit the ground running on her first day in the White House," he said. 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 early support of Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton came to Laredo in October to endorse Cuellar's reelection to the U.S. House. on November 4, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John S. McCain in Webb County with a margin of 71-28 percent.

On June 26, 2009, Cuellar voted with the House majority to pass, 219-212, the cap and trade legislation, officially known as the "American Clean Energy and Security Act".


  2. Redistrict Ruling May Affect Nov Election, Ruling That Congressional District in Texas Is Unconstitutional May Effect Nov Election - CBS News
  3. Julian Aguilar, "DA, sheriff tilts evoke lively campaign brawls", Laredo Morning Times, January 4, 2008, pp. 1, 11A;;jsessionid=618096F8C7F060B6E662B8F7B2BCCEF9?searchFName=james&searchMName=&searchLName=fish&searchCity=cibolo&searchState=TX&searchApproxAge=45&adID=10002101&searchtab=people&x=40&y=15
  4. Julian Aguilar, "Jim Fish steps up to run against Cuellar for House", Laredo Morning Times, October 10, 2008, p. 3A
  5. Texas Secretary of State, November 4, 2008, election returns:

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