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-CortezThe Memo: Trump's risky bid for attention Conservative former NFL player says Trump met with him to discuss 'black America' Louisiana police officer fired after saying on Facebook that Ocasio-Cortez 'needs a round' 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 PressleyCNN, MSNBC said 'racist' more than 4,100 times from July 14-21 Trump says 'Squad' and Dems have 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' over impeachment 2020 RNC host city Charlotte condemns Trump's 'racist and xenophobic' remarks 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 Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota 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.