Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has yet to be sworn in as the representative for the 14th Congressional District in New York after ousting House Democratic Caucus Chairmen Joe Crowley, but the Democratic Socialist is already setting her sights on taking down another colleague who doesn’t share her radical agenda, according to members of her team.
In its report on the alleged plan, Politico called Ocasio-Cortez’s win a “shocking primary victory” and reported she “put colleagues on notice for future primaries just days after the November election, telling a live stream audience that she and an allied group, Justice Democrats, would keep working together to boost anti-incumbent challengers — though she didn’t name names.”
In her crosshairs, Politico reports, is Hakeem Jeffries, whom House Democrats just elected to replace Crowley as caucus chairman — the No. 5 Democrat leadership spot.
The Politico report comes from an unnamed source who said they spoke with Ocasio-Cortez’s team, telling her that the newly elected representative had recruited an African American to challenge Jeffries, who is also black, in the primaries ahead of the 2020 election.
A second person with direct knowledge of Justice Democrats’ primary plans said the group is “looking” at Jeffries’ seat. Since Justice Democrats put out a call for potential targets, the group’s supporters have singled out Jeffries as a member they would be “excited” to oppose.
Challenging Jeffries would open an audacious new front in Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts to steer the direction of the Democratic Party, pitting her and allies against a rising-star African-American Democrat seen by some as a potential future speaker of the House. It would also set off another intra-party New York City brawl — Jeffries’ Brooklyn district is just a few miles south of Ocasio-Cortez’s Bronx-and-Queens seat — that would peak just as Democrats hope to rally around a presidential nominee in mid-2020.
Opposition to Jeffries is in keeping with Ocasio-Cortez’s far left political agenda, including slamming him for accepting corporate donations and claiming he is “overly friendly” with the banking sector and charter school advocates.
But Ocasio-Cortez is mostly upset about rumors that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) lost to Jeffries because Lee made a campaign contribution to the New York newcomer, according to Politico.
“It’s personal for Ocasio,” the anonymous source said. “And she’s going to go all out to take him out.”
But Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman Corbin Trent denied the report, saying that energy right now is going toward putting together the Rep.-elect’s staff.
Politico notes that Jeffries is far from a moderate, with A ratings from the ACLU and the NAACP.
And he is already in a good position going into the next election cycle, with more than $1 million still in the bank after his winning bid in the 2018 midterms.
Still, Justice Democrats are putting plans in place to throw out those they see as not far enough to the left.
“We’re going to double down on primary challenges and look at some of these white, male corporate Democrats similar to Joe Crowley,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said. “Many of these places are majority or plurality people-of-color districts that don’t demographically or policy-wise reflect the diverse working-class communities they often serve.”
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter