Justice Democrats fire back at Bustos over comments on primary challenges

The progressive group Justice Democrats rebuked Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosGOP struggles with retirement wave DCCC names new head after mass staff departure The Hill's Morning Report - Trump ousts Bolton; GOP exhales after win in NC 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-CortezGreta Thunberg scolds Congress on climate action: 'I know you are trying but just not hard enough' Ocasio-Cortez endorses challenger to Democrat Lipinski in Illinois race The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? 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.