by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Last February, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatened House Democrats who dared to work with Republicans, saying they were “putting themselves on a list” and that she would help challengers unseat them in 2020. At the time, her more seasoned colleagues assumed such rhetoric would abate once she learned how Congress operates. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), for example, gave her the benefit of the doubt: “She’s new here, feeling her way around. She doesn’t understand how the place works yet.” Presumably, Shrader was disabused of this fantasy when he found his name among the 24 House Democrats who will soon be “primaried” by candidates backed by two Political Action Committees linked to AOC.
Brand New Congress, a PAC co-founded by AOC’s mentor Saikat Chakrabarti and other like-minded lefties associated with Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, is backing a 2020 primary challenge to Schrader by environmental activist Mark Gamba. Schrader has represented Oregon’s 5th District since 2009 and is one of the few “Blue Dog” Democrats left in Congress. Among the heresies that incurred AOC’s wrath was his July vote against a motion offered by Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) to impeach President Trump. Schrader compounded this crime by raising the possibility of merely censuring Trump. Shortly thereafter Brand New Congress decided to endorse Gamba.
Schrader is just one of two dozen incumbent Democrats who will be primaried by candidates endorsed by Brand New Congress and the closely allied Justice Democrats, another far left PAC co-founded by Chakrabarti. Moreover, some of the Democrats targeted by these two PACs in 2020 are high-profile Democratic luminaries, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Even more controversial is their targeting of a disproportionate number of Congressional Black Caucus members.