Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced Friday her political action committee’s first round of endorsements, which will include two progressive candidates challenging sitting Democratic members of Congress.
“It’s time to elect a progressive majority in Congress accountable to strong, grassroots movements that push support for issues like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, racial justice and more,” said Ocasio-Cortez Friday, announcing the support of seven women via her Courage to Change PAC.
When the freshman lawmaker from New York announced in January she was starting her own PAC dedicated to electing progressive legislators, she said it would refuse to pay dues to the House’s campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The congresswoman also said the PAC would support incumbents who vote for progressive causes, although the first round of seven endorsements all went to challengers.
“Contributions will be used to make early investments in progressive challengers that can even the playing field against established incumbents, and bolster progressive leaders in Congress who take difficult but righteous stands,” reads the PAC’s website. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign told the New York Times the organization had raised more than $300,000 in January.
Ocasio-Cortez won her seat representing parts of Queens and the Bronx by successfully downing Joe Crowley, a member of the Democratic leadership, in a 2018 primary. In her first year in office she proved an adept fundraiser, bringing in over $5 million to her campaign through grassroots donations aided by her massive online following, with more than 6 million Twitter followers.
The PAC could cause conflict with Democratic leadership, who went as far as creating a blacklist of campaign staffers who work for primary challengers to Democratic incumbents. One name on the Ocasio-Cortez PAC’s list of initial endorsements is Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old attorney challenging Rep. Henry Cuellar, a conservative Democrat, in southeast Texas.
Cisneros has earned the endorsements of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and DCCC Chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois have supported Cuellar. That primary will be decided on March 3 as part of the massive Super Tuesday slate.
Another Courage to Change endorsement that could butt against Democratic leadership is of Marie Newman, who’s challenging Rep. Dan Lipinski for a Chicago-area seat. Lipinski is the only remaining anti-abortion Democrat left in the party’s congressional caucus, and Newman came within 2,200 votes of unseating him in 2018. Pelosi endorsed Lipinski in 2018, but the leadership support might be shifting in advance of the March 17 primary, as Bustos pulled out of a Lipinski fundraiser last year. Newman earned the endorsement of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this month.
Also in the first round of endorsements is Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, who is running in a Senate primary in Texas against the establishment choice of M.J. Hegar. The winner of that contest will face off against Sen. John Cornyn in November.
The PAC also backed Kara Eastman for Congress in Nebraska, where she defeated the DCCC-backed candidate in the 2018 primary before losing narrowly in the general election to GOP Rep. Don Bacon.
Her other endorsements were all for House races: Teresa Fernandez in New Mexico, Georgette Gómez in California and Samelys López in New York. In this first round of support, Ocasio-Cortez did not endorse the challengers attempting to primary Reps. Richard Neal of Massachusetts or Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel of New York, all chairmen of powerful House committees.
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