Ocasio-Cortez Focused on Unseating Hakeem Jeffries in ‘Personal’ Clash

(Updated)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Getty Images

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Democratic socialist Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) knocked out Democrats’ previous No. 5 in the House to get her seat in Congress; now she has her eyes set on the replacement, according to reporting from Politico.

Ocasio-Cortez rocketed onto the scene by defeating Rep. Joe Crowley, then the House caucus chairman, in a Queens primary, and Politico reports her next top objective is axing the new caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.). The incoming congresswoman has already recruited an African-American woman to run against Jeffries in 2020, according to a source familiar with the project, although her office denies it.

Taking Jeffries out is her "highest priority" target, according to the source, as he is perceived to be in opposition to the left wing of the party and its goals.

The Justice Democrats group that’s aligned with Ocasio-Cortez opposes Jeffries taking cash from corporate interests but also sees him as too cozy with banks and charter schools. But a personal part of the story is that Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D., Calif.) choice to donate to Ocasio-Cortez was used against her in the Democrats’ leadership vote, which Jeffries won narrowly.

"It’s personal for Ocasio," said the source, who talked to Ocasio-Cortez and her team about the project to oust Jeffries. "And she’s going to go all out to take him out."

Ocasio-Cortez herself slammed Politico‘s reporting Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. She called it "gossip that masquerades as ‘reporting,'" and criticized the main source being anonymous.

Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent said the leadership election "disappointed" her team.

"We’re disappointed in the way that the leadership elections went down, specifically that leadership election," Trent said. "We would have liked to have seen that be a more fair fight with less pressure."

Jeffries dismissed questions about his liberal credentials. His voting record is reliably liberal, and he has A-ratings from liberal groups such as the ACLU and NAACP.

Another New York Democrat, Rep. Gregory Meeks, said a primary challenge against Jeffries would be ridiculous.

"There is no one who knows their district better than Hakeem Jeffries," Meeks said. "Hakeem is and will continue to work the district, and he will continue to win by large margins, so, ultimately, whoever primaries him will be wasting their time and their money."

If an internecine fight broke out over Jeffries’ 2020 primary, Democrats would have a key conflict on their hands as they would also be looking for a presidential candidate to get behind.

Jeffries did not express any worry in his brief statement about possibly being challenged.

"It’s a free country and democracy is a beautiful thing," he said.

Update 5:22 p.m.: This article was updated with Ocasio-Cortez's tweets about the story.

Paul Crookston

Paul Crookston   Email Paul | Full Bio | RSS
Paul Crookston is the deputy war room director at the Washington Free Beacon. He was previously a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review. A 2016 graduate of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., he served as the managing editor of the Tartan campus newspaper. He is originally from Tampa, Fla., but he still roots for Dad’s Ohio teams. His Twitter handle is @P_Crookston. He can be reached at crookston@freebeacon.com.

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