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Justice Democrats makes Texas congressman Henry Cuellar a 2020 goal

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A grass-roots Democratic group that helped energy the upset victory of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has recognized a Texas Democrat as its first goal forward of the 2020 congressional primaries — however as of now, Ocasio-Cortez herself is staying impartial.

Justice Democrats, a political committee based after the 2016 election to reshape the Democratic Get together via major challenges, is working to recruit a challenger to Rep. Henry Cuellar, a seven-term congressman from a strongly Democratic district who’s one of many few anti-abortion-rights voices within the get together’s Home convention.

In a press release, the group in contrast Texas’s 28th Congressional District, which gave the president simply 38.5 p.c of the vote in 2016, to different districts the place left-leaning candidates have unseated incumbents. It’s launching a “major Cuellar fund” to encourage any potential candidate that there can be assets if she or he jumps into the race.

“There’s an Ocasio-Cortez and [Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna] Pressley in blue districts throughout America, uninterested in seeing long-standing incumbents serve company pursuits, work with Trump’s agenda, and work in opposition to the progressive motion,” mentioned Alexandra Rojas, the manager director of Justice Democrats. “These grass-roots leaders simply want slightly little bit of encouragement and help.”

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Cuellar’s workplace didn’t reply to a query from The Washington Publish, however he has lengthy been seen as a goal for the get together’s left wing as it really works to construct its bench. Final 12 months, after a left-wing major challenger to Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Unwell.) was narrowly defeated, Cuellar advised The Publish that he would maintain his seat in any major.

“They got here after me twice, and I beat ’em,” Cuellar mentioned. “LBJ used to say: What’s the distinction between a cannibal and a liberal Democrat? Cannibals don’t eat their very own.”

The Justice Democrats’ marketing campaign to oust “company Democrats” was restarted after the 2018 elections, with Ocasio-Cortez, one in every of her get together’s largest stars, as its de facto spokeswoman. In a mid-November name with activists, Ocasio-Cortez mentioned that they might “save this nation” by both shaming incumbents out of accepting “cash from oil and gasoline firms” or by ousting them on the polls.

“We’ve bought to major of us,” mentioned Saikat Chakrabarti, who would develop into the congresswoman’s chief of employees.

However Ocasio-Cortez will not be intervening within the “major Cuellar” marketing campaign proper now. In her first days in workplace, the congresswoman has publicly criticized a Home rule that required offsets for any spending will increase, whereas privately working to get appointed to not less than one committee with jurisdiction over taxes or well being care.

Whereas she was not appointed to the Methods and Means Committee after a left-wing marketing campaign on her behalf, Ocasio-Cortez is predicted to get a seat on the Monetary Providers Committee. She will not be a part of Justice Democrats’ major recruitment push.

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“We’re not energetic of their course of,” mentioned Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman, Corbin Trent, a co-founder of Justice Democrats. “We’re targeted on getting up and going.”

Cuellar himself arrived in Congress through a major problem, ousting a extra liberal colleague in 2004 to win his seat. He defeated that colleague in a 2006 rematch and has been politically protected ever since.

Left-wing marketing campaign teams, which had their best success final 12 months in deep-blue districts, have pointed to the heavy Democratic benefit in Cuellar’s seat as proof that anybody who unseated the congressman could be elected in November. Cuellar additionally rankled Democrats final 12 months by serving to increase cash for Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.), who narrowly defeated a powerful Democratic challenger within the Austin exurbs.

“South Texas is in a particular place to guide the nation on immigration, renewable power, and well being care, but Henry Cuellar has failed to do that by as a substitute voting with Donald Trump practically 70 p.c of the time,” mentioned Danny Diaz, an activist within the district who co-founded a voter turnout group, Cambio (Change) Texas.

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