Last month, a Fox News reporter trumpeted a “SCOOP” on Twitter — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was “withholding” $250,000 in dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Ocasio-Cortez confirmed the report: “DCCC made clear that they will blacklist any org that helps progressive candidates like me. I can choose not to fund that kind of exclusion,” she wrote. The following day, she announced the creation of a new PAC to support progressive candidates.
On Friday, Ocasio-Cortez announced the first seven candidates who will benefit from her fundraising firepower: They are all progressives, they are all women, most are women of color, two are targeting Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic colleagues in the House.
Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is running for Senate in Texas against the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee-endorsed candidate, MJ Hegar — both are hoping to unseat Republican Sen. John Cornyn. Teresa Leger Fernandez in New Mexico, Samelys López in New York, Georgette Gómez in California, and Kara Eastman in Nebraska are each competing for House seats that are either vacant or held by a Republican incumbent.
Two other beneficiaries of Ocasio-Cortez’s support, Marie Newman and Jessica Cisnero, are targeting elected Democrats — Rep. Daniel Lipinski, an anti-choice congressman from Illinois, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a pro-gun congressman from Texas, respectively.
The move also underlines the struggle among Democrats that is defining the race for the presidency, which is pitting Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist, against more moderate candidates who are presenting themselves as better able to appeal to a broad section of voters in taking on President Trump. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has traversed the country to campaign for Mr. Sanders, and her efforts to pull Congress to the left parallel his bid to deploy his progressive message to emerge as the Democratic nominee, an effort that has instilled fear in many centrist lawmakers who believe it could cost them their seats.
“One of our primary goals is to reward political courage in Congress and also to help elect a progressive majority in the House of Representatives,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview. “There’s kind of a dual nature to this: One is opening the door to newcomers, and the other is to reward members of Congress that are exhibiting very large amounts of political courage.”
Her own upset victory in 2018 over a 20-year Democratic congressman has inspired a slew of Democratic primary challenges across the nation targeting powerful incumbents — though many have little chance of winning. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who toppled a top party leader in her primary election, has carefully selected the races in which she is intervening with an eye for districts where her seal of approval would help the primary challenger prevail.
“Anyone can show up one day and say, ‘I support all these policies; that makes me a progressive,’” she said. “But one of the things that is really important to us is winning.”