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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s PAC endorsed young challenger Alex Morse in his competitive Democratic primary against longtime incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The backing is the latest example of Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts to oust sitting Democratic members of Congress in favor of more progressive challengers and once again puts the New York Democrat at odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has endorsed Neal in his reelection fight.
Morse, 31, is the mayor of Holyoke, Mass., a position he’s held since the age of 22. Morse touted the support of AOC’s “Courage to Change” PAC as a big boost to his campaign and their shared goal of building a progressive majority in Congress.
Holyoke, Mass. Mayor Alex B. Morse (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
“I am running for Congress to make sure that our government works for working families,” Morse said in a statement. “When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took on her own entrenched incumbent in 2018, she changed public service for the better, further inspiring me and so many others to fight for our districts and empower those who have long been forgotten. I am honored to have the Congresswoman’s Courage to Change in our corner, and it will be the honor of my life to bring the people alongside me to Washington.”
Ocasio-Cortez, 30, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she beat powerful Rep. Joe Crowley from Queens in an upset victory in 2018. Since then, Ocasio-Cortez has sought to bring in more like-minded progressives to Congress by putting her endorsement and fundraising skills behind other political newcomers.
Examples of recent successes include Jamaal Bowman, who defeated New York Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Marie Newman, who beat anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois this year.
Both were endorsed by AOC’s leadership PAC, which aims to “reward challengers and incumbents who display political courage — people who refuse to bow to establishment pressure, who advocate ferociously for working-class families, and who have lived the same struggles as the people they seek to represent.”
The PAC has raised more than $550,000 so far this year, federal records show.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., arrives for a Democratic Caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, on April 2, 2019. Rep. Neal, whose committee has jurisdiction over all tax issues, has formally requested President Donald Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service for the past 6 years. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Pelosi, along with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), routinely backs House Democratic incumbents as part of their overall goal of protecting the majority.
She already issued a video endorsement for Neal, 71, touting his leadership efforts during the COVID-19 response.
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“When I needed someone to lead the fight against Donald Trump, I asked Richie Neal, because he doesn’t back down from anyone,” Pelosi said in the video.
Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez are also endorsing opposite candidates in the Massachusetts Senate primary between incumbent Sen. Ed Markey and House member Rep. Joe Kennedy.
Progressives slammed Pelosi’s decision to work against a sitting liberal incumbent senator, who has been a leader on the Green New Deal and climate change activism — and has support from Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others.
They had balked at the Democratic establishment’s efforts to protect incumbents against primary challenges from the left and cried foul at Pelosi’s decision to get involved here.
“No one gets to complain about primary challenges again,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
The Massachusetts primary is Sept. 1.
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