Report: Ocasio-Cortez targets Jeffries for 2020 primary challenge
Call it the Democrats’ own “Family Feud.”
U.S. Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rocked New York’s political establishment when she toppled longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in June’s Democratic primary, is now said to be setting her sights on another major figure in New York politics: U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
Politico reported on Tuesday that Ocasio-Cortez and a group of progressives called Justice Democrats are gunning for Jeffries’ seat. The organization, with Ocasio-Cortez’s blessing, has reportedly already recruited a candidate, an African-American woman, to run against Jeffries two years from now.
Jeffries, whose congressional district includes Coney Island, Canarsie and East New York in Brooklyn and Howard Beach and South Ozone Park in Queens, was recently elected to the coveted post of chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. His name has been mentioned as a future Speaker of the House.
Crowley was the previous chairman of the caucus.
A primary could lead to open warfare between Ocasio-Cortez and Jeffries, two of the Democratic Party’s rising stars at a time when the Democrats would be seeking to unite to try and defeat Republican President Donald Trump in 2020.
Jeffries isn’t progressive enough for some on the far left of the Democratic Party, who told Politico they are upset with the lawmaker’s ties to banking interests and charter school proponents.
In addition, Ocasio-Cortez is said to be upset over the fact that a contribution she made to U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), the woman who ran against Jeffries for the chairperson position, was the subject of a whispering campaign against Lee, Politico reported.
Neither Ocasio-Cortez’s nor Jeffries’ offices returned messages from the Brooklyn Eagle.
In a roundtable with reporters in his district office on Monday, Jeffries, 48, said he was looking forward to working with all of the newly elected members of New York City’s congressional delegation, including Ocasio-Cortez. “The Democratic Party is a big tent,” he said.
Jeffries acknowledged that progressives “are the center of gravity” in the current Democratic Party. But he also added that the majority of Democrats who were able to flip House seats from red to blue in the November election “are more centrist, moderate” than many realize.
In defeating Crowley, a man who had been in office for 20 years, in the primary and winning the general election last month, Ocasio-Cortez put herself on the map. Her every move has been scrutinized by the media — and she has 1.6 million Twitter followers.
Starting in January, she will represent the 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights in Queens and Morris Park, Parkchester, Pelham Bay and Throgs Neck in the Bronx. At the age of 29, she will be the youngest women ever to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Stephen Witt, founder and editor of Kings County Politics, said knocking off Jeffries would be an uphill battle for Ocasio-Cortez.
“It’s a huge hill to climb. It’s one thing to beat Joe Crowley, who didn’t even campaign to keep his seat. It’s another thing to try and beat Hakeem, who works hard, is well liked and has deep roots in the community,” Witt told the Eagle.
Another factor in Jeffries’ favor: the configuration of the congressional district. “Three-quarters of that district is in Brooklyn. Only a small part of it is in Queens,” Witt said.
With her upset win over Crowley, “Ocasio-Cortez became a national star,” Witt said. “But I don’t know how that’s going to play in Central Brooklyn.”
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