Justice Democrats fire back at Bustos over comments on primary challenges

The progressive group Justice Democrats rebuked Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings DCCC adds senior staffers after summer departures DCCC raises more than M in October MORE (D-Ill.) on Thursday after she said that the job of her party’s House campaign arm is to back incumbents.

Waleed Shahid, Justice Democrats’ communications director, said in a tweet that, if it were up to Bustos, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera Louisiana governor wins reelection White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE (D-N.Y.) likely would have had no chance at ousting former Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a shocking primary upset last year.

“If Cheri Bustos had her way there would likely be no Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” Shahid wrote, noting that most Americans “live in congressional districts where there are no competitive general elections.”

“Let's have more choices and democracy inside the Democratic Party.”

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Shahid’s tweet came after Bustos told Politico in an interview that while she’s keen to “learn from someone like” Ocasio-Cortez, she has a responsibility as the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to “support Democrats in the House.”

Bustos said the DCCC should instead focus on fighting off potential Republican challenges to the Democrats’ newfound House majority.

“I hope we don’t have to deal with a lot of primary angst because it takes a lot of resources when that happens,” she said. “We’ve got a tough two years ahead, with the other side of the aisle, so I hope those are the battles we can focus on.”

The Hill has reached out to DCCC for comment.

Ocasio-Cortez, who was sworn into the House on Thursday, gained national attention in June after pulling off a come-from-behind win over Crowley, a 10-term incumbent who served as the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

In November, Ocasio-Cortez threw her support behind an effort by Justice Democrats to encourage political newcomers to mount primary challenges against Democratic incumbents.

The group backed Ocasio-Cortez’s primary campaign against Crowley last year.