Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York blasted Democratic leaders’ attempts to meddle in Republican primaries to promote extremist candidates whom they think Democrats could beat in a general election. She calle the gambit dangerous.
The self-described democratic socialist congresswoman criticised the efforts, saying that Democrats hoped that former president Donald Trump would be the 2016 Republican nominee.
“I don’t think we should be elevating dangerous elements of the right-wing,” she told The Independent. “Democrats who have that type of thinking should have learned that lesson with Trump in 2016, but I personally am not supportive.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is boosting extremist candidates in many GOP primaries in hopes that Democrats will be more electible by comparison. Most recently, they are running ads calling John Gibbs – a Republican running challenging Representative Peter Meijer, one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump – “too conservative” for Michigan and touting that Mr Trump supports him.
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has defended the practice.
“If you're talking about trying to pick your opponent, you might see us do that, sure. And I think sometimes it does make sense,” he said on Morning Joe on Tuesday.
Democrats have also gotten involved in gubernatorial primaries as well, boosting right-wing candidate Doug Mastriano – who was in Washington on the day the insurrection on 6 January and was near the Capitol but says he avoided police barricades and left before the riot got out of hand. Democrats also ran ads touting Maryland Republican candidate Dan Cox’s record in the GOP primary before he beat the more establishment Kelly Schulz.
But Democratic Senatorial Committee Chairman Gary Peters said they would go another route.
“I'll just say you know I chair the DSCC we don't do that,” he told The Independent on Wednesday.
And criticism of the strategy is not limited to progressives. Representative Abigail Spanberger, a moderate Democrat from Virginia who frequently criticises her left-wing counterparts, also spoke out about it.
“I think that in the coalition of those who support democracy, there are only a few Republicans who have really put their, you know, frankly, their careers on the line,” she told The Independent. “And so the, you know, I think it is suboptimal the dollars that are meant to elect Democrats would be used to attack those who on like, the very foundational issue of the health of our democracy, stood by principles.”
Dean Phillips, a moderate Democrat from Minnesota, also criticised the move.
“I believe we've worked quite hard to claim the moral high ground on integrity and honor and like faith in our electoral system, and I think this is the spends a lot of that hard earned equity in a disappointment,” he said.
But Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, defended the move, saying “it’s all political strategy.”
“You want to have the the ideal candidate run against,” he said. “Republicans do the same thing.“
Mr Cuellar recently survived a challenge by Jessica Cisneros, a progressive challenger Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed. That election went to a runoff but Mr Cuellar narrowly triumphed.
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