- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2020

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who shocked the political world in 2018 when she upset former Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley, has inspired six candidates who are looking to follow her example and defeat longtime House Democrats.

The effort again put Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, at odds with party leaders.

The leadership’s campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, moved to put the kibosh on insurgent candidacies last year by blacklisting vendors that do business with primary challengers.

“Well, 70% of Americans live in a safe seat. They live in a safe Democratic seat or they live in a safe Republican seat, and a primary election is often a community’s only chance at democracy,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Times. “I believe that in primary elections, especially in safe seats, that democracy should exist.”

Justice Democrats, the group that helped launch Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, has only her victory under its belt despite backing 12 other candidates that year.

This time, Justice Democrats are following her playbook and have endorsed these six challengers to take on incumbent House Democrats:

Illinois District 3: Marie Newman vs. Rep. Dan Lipinski

Marie Newman is facing off with eight-term incumbent Dan Lipinski for a second time after narrowly losing to him in 2018. She secured the endorsement of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and liberal stars such as Washington state Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Mr. Lipinski, a conservative Democrat, has faced a wave of backlash from members of his party for his pro-life stances, whereas Ms. Newman has the support of several progressive and pro-choice advocacy groups including NARAL and EMILY’s List.

The four-way primary, which also includes candidates Rush Darwish and Charles Hughes, will be held March 17.

Texas District 28: Jessica Cisneros vs. Rep. Henry Cuellar

Jessica Cisneros is looking to topple Rep. Henry Cuellar, an eight-term Democrat who is one of the party’s most conservative House members.

Ms. Cisneros is already drawing comparisons to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. If the 26-year-old lawyer ends up taking the seat, she would replace the New York congresswoman as the youngest woman to serve in Congress. She has locked down several endorsements from progressive and labor groups, along with presidential candidates Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Ms. Warren.

According to The Texas Tribune, the race has attracted a flood of outside spending from both sides, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a conservative-leaning group, backing Mr. Cuellar and Texas Forward, a new liberal-leaning PAC, supporting Ms. Cisneros.

They face off in the polls March 3.

Missouri District 1: Cori Bush vs. Rep. Lacy Clay

Cori Bush’s 2018 loss to Rep. Lacy Clay was featured alongside Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s win in Netflix’s documentary “Knock Down the House.” Despite the defeat, Ms. Bush, a nurse, is looking to defeat the 10-term incumbent, who is deeply tied to the Democratic Party leadership.

Unlike Ms. Newman and Ms. Cisneros, Ms. Bush is challenging an incumbent with a sterling voting record with the party establishment.

During last year’s feud between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “The Squad,” a group of far-left freshman Democrats that includes Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Mr. Clay staunchly defended leadership and accused the freshman upstarts of playing the “race card.”

The district will hold its primary Aug. 4.

New York District 16: Jamaal Bowman vs. Rep. Eliot Engel

Next door to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s Bronx district, former New York City middle school principal Jamaal Bowman is attempting to topple sitting House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.

Mr. Bowman has secured endorsements from several key progressive groups such as the Working Families Party and New York Progressive Action.

Mr. Engel, meanwhile, had his committee help spearhead the investigation into allegations President Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations into political rival former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Mr. Bowman and Mr. Engel are competing against four other candidates. The primary is June 23.

Ohio District 3: Morgan Harper vs. Rep. Joyce Beatty

Morgan Harper, a former senior adviser at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is challenging four-term incumbent Rep. Joyce Beatty, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee.

In their first debate this month, Ms. Beatty touted her commitment to core Democratic priorities such as protecting Obamacare, while the challenger endorsed Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s marquee Green New Deal.

Their primary will be held March 17.

Massachusetts District 1: Alex Morse vs. Rep. Richard Neal

Alex Morse, mayor of Holyoke, is tackling Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. The two have traded jabs over their fundraising sources.

Mr. Neal has the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal, which his committee quickly moved along after months of leadership negotiation, and an infrastructure framework to tout on the campaign trail.

Their Sept. 1 primary is two months before the general election.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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