Members of the Congressional Black Caucus lashed out at the Justice Democrats, a progressive group aligned with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for trying to field primary challengers to lawmakers of color.
The Hill reported that members are “furious” after the Justice Democrats backed primary challengers to eight-term Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and 10-term Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay. The group has also reportedly considered a primary challenge to New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a senior member of the CBC who is seen as a possible heir to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
CBC members also believe that the Justice Democrats may target other members, like New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, Ohio Rep. Royce Beatty, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, and Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown.
The group previously backed Ocasio-Cortez in her upset win over longtime Rep. Joe Crowley, as well as Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who defeated Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano.
CBC Member: ‘They are going after the wrong target’
Clay told The Hill that Justice Democrats should be targeting Republicans instead of Democrats of color.
“They are going after the wrong target. Instead of fighting Republicans and defeating Trump and holding on to our majority, they find it convenient to go after their own, which is to me a bunch of B.S.,” Clay told the outlet.
“It just seems strange that the social Democrats seem to be targeting members of the Congressional Black Caucus, individuals who have stood and fought to make sure that African Americans are included and part of this process,” added New York Rep. Gregory Meeks. “I don’t know what that agenda is, but if they want to come after members of the Black Caucus, it’s two ways.”
“It does make you wonder what’s going on,” added another CBC member, Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly. “Some names that have been mentioned all seem to be people of color, and more so CBC members.”
Justice Dems: CBC complaints ‘absurd’
A Justice Democrats source told The Hill that the CBC’s allegations are “absurd and more about protecting incumbency over democracy.”
The group’s executive director, Alexandra Rojas, told The Hill that the only way to affect change in certain districts is in the primaries.
“We are supporting a black woman who is a community organizer who has taken on police brutality in the St. Louis area,” Rojas said. “Seventy percent of congressional districts in America have no competitive general election; primaries are often the only places where voters can have a real say.”
“Barack Obama first ran for Congress in a primary challenge to Rep. Bobby Rush, a CBC member,” she added. “This is a democracy and voters deserve choices.”