New York Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan to shake up the party in Congress reportedly involves the ouster of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from his Brooklyn district in the 2020 primaries. For Ocasio-Cortez, targeting Jeffries is both political and personal.
The incoming freshman congresswoman has already recruited an African-American woman to challenge Jeffries in the primary election, which is still two years away, an unidentified source told Politico reported.
Jeffries, a political rising star who recently won the No. 5 House Democratic leadership position, is the “highest priority” for Ocasio-Cortez. However, her office denied to Politico that she had already recruited a candidate to challenge the congressman.
Ocasio-Cortez, who won an upset primary victory in 2018 over incumbent Joe Crowley, is part of a group called the Justice Democrats that wants to replace moderates with progressives. Their main strategy is to defeat incumbents in future primaries.
When the Justice Democrats looked for potential targets, Jeffries’ name ended up at the top of their list. They don’t like that Jeffries, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, accepts considerable money from corporations, and they’re displeased with his close ties with the banking industry and charter school supporters.
However, targeting Jeffries goes beyond those reasons for Ocasio-Cortez.
“It’s personal for Ocasio. And she’s going to go all out to take him out,” a source told the news outlet.
“Ocasio-Cortez is also unhappy that a campaign donation to her from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) was allegedly used in a whisper campaign against Lee before her narrow loss to Jeffries in the recent race for Democratic caucus chair,” Politico explained.
But Jeffries is not an easy target. Since coming to Congress, the Brooklyn Democrat has gained a lot of political clout—rising to a post in House leadership after serving just six years. Jeffries, 48, is considered by many to be on track to become the first African-American speaker of the House. Unlike Crowley, he regularly keeps in touch with his constituents.
Jeffries, a former corporate lawyer who has a war chest of more than $1 million to defend his seat, was unconcerned by the political threat.
“It’s a free country and democracy is a beautiful thing. Spread love; it’s the Brooklyn way,” Jeffries said, quoting rapper Notorious B.I.G.