- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Liberal activists say their troops are buzzing with energy and ready to stun the country in November, riding a new wave of optimism after a major Democratic primary victory last month and with the stakes in the upcoming elections growing.

They hope their energy can either derail President Trump’s looming Supreme Court nomination or, at the least, help them punish Republicans and any Democrats who back the eventual pick.

And the liberal groups say Mr. Trump’s recent get-tough border policies have delivered a new issue — abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — which joins universal health care, free college and criminal justice reform as campaign staples.

All of that came together in late June when elections newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, scored an easy primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley in New York City.

Alexandra Rojas, co-director of Justice Democrats, which endorsed Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and a slate of like-minded candidates that have sworn off corporate donations, said her group’s fundraising has tripled since the Ocasio-Cortez win and progressive candidates are getting more national exposure.

“She symbolizes a lot of hope,” Ms. Rojas said. “People from all over now see that this is possible.”

Justice Democrats oppose NAFTA and “bad trade deals,” support ending the death penalty, and call for investing trillions into roads and bridges.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory followed a mixed primary season that had seen progressive activists battle party leaders in a number of House races — with variable success.

That battle suggests major policy feuds ahead for the party should it grab control of the agenda by winning control of either the House or Senate in November.

For now, though, Democratic leaders know they’ll have to harness the liberal activists’ energy, and they’re increasingly solicitous toward candidates who just months ago would have been outcasts.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in an interview with the “Bill Press Show” on Tuesday that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “represents the future of our party.”

The candidate herself, meanwhile, is tapping into her newfound political stardom.

She’s endorsed like-minded candidates such as Ayanna Pressley’s in Massachusetts’s 7th Congressional District, Kaniela Ing in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District and Brent Welder in Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District.

Mr. Welder’s campaign announced they’ve gotten a bounce from the extra attention, raising $50,000 in a week online from over 2,000 donors.

“If there ever was a place to flip a seat in the Midwest and prove progressive populism can win in what is considered a red district, it is this one,” Ms. Rojas said of Mr. Welder’s bid.

Neil Sroka, spokesman for Democracy for America, said his group also has seen a surge in grass-roots fundraising since Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s win and a series of late-term Supreme Court actions that liberals didn’t like, including the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

“I think it is just one House race, and it is not going to erase things like these court rulings and Supreme Court fight. But what it indicated to us and so many that the change we are fighting for in Democratic politics and in politics at large is not just possible, but it is on the march,” Mr. Sroka said.

Victoria Kaplan, organizing director of MoveOn.org, announced this week in a conference call with supporters that the group was expanding its targeted House races as part of its “Resist and Win” program to 100 Congressional Districts “to end GOP control of the House and to resist Trump’s toxic agenda.”

“We have to come out and vote,” said MoveOn.org spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre during the call. “That is the only way we are going to end GOP control of the House. That is the only way we are going to be able to elect inspiring progressives and movement leaders up and down the ballot.”

“Everything is on the line,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

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