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-CortezDemocratic Socialists of America endorses Sanders for president Ocasio-Cortez: Green New Deal 'narratives are manipulated' by critics Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' 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 PressleyBeto could give Biden and Bernie a run for their money Pelosi says she backs lowering voting age to 16 America has a democracy problem 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 TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated 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.