Progressive group backed by Ocasio-Cortez sets sights on first Dem target in 2020

Progressive group backed by Ocasio-Cortez sets sights on first Dem target in 2020
© Greg Nash

The grass-roots group Justice Democrats unveiled plans on Friday to target Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) in the 2020 congressional primaries, dealing an opening salvo in its offensive to expand the slate of progressive Democrats in the House.

The group, which counts Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTlaib to join Sanders at campaign rally in Detroit AOC: Trump comparing impeachment inquiry to a lynching is 'atrocious' Former Obama official pushes back against assertion of unfair Sanders media coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) as one of its biggest supporters, launched a “Primary Cuellar” fund through the Democrats’ online fundraising portal ActBlue on Friday in an effort to attract potential primary challengers.

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Justice Democrats backed insurgent progressives including Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyAOC: Trump comparing impeachment inquiry to a lynching is 'atrocious' These 3 women are defining the race to unseat Trump Ocasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' MORE (Mass.) in their successful primaries against longtime Democratic incumbents in 2018.

Cuellar, a seven-term congressman, represents one of the few safe Democratic districts in deep-red Texas. He’s a member of the centrist New Democrat Coalition and Blue Dog Coalition.

In a statement, Justice Democrats cast Cuellar as a Democrat in name only, arguing that his record — voting with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE nearly 69 percent of the time in the 115th Congress — signaled a betrayal of voters in his district.

“There’s an Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley in blue districts across America tired of seeing long-standing incumbents serve corporate interests, work with Trump’s agenda and work against the progressive movement,” Alexandra Rojas, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated 10-term former Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) last year in a stunning primary upset, in November threw her support behind the group’s campaign to challenge Democratic incumbents deemed insufficiently progressive or out of touch with voters in their districts.