Progressive community organizer Odessa Kelly has launched the first major progressive primary challenge of 2022 with the backing of the Justice Democrats, BuzzFeed News reports.
Justice Democrats, which helped launch Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, on Monday backed Kelly’s bid against longtime moderate Democrat Jim Cooper, who has served more than 30 years in Congress.
Kelly is the co-founder of the nonprofit economic development advocacy group Stand Up Nashville.
If elected, Kelly would be the first openly gay Black woman elected to Congress, which BuzzFeed reported was “something she said she wasn’t even aware of until proofreading the press release announcing her candidacy.”
“That’s so dope,” she told the outlet. “I’m an openly gay person, a Black woman, a mother. Those are part of me.”
Kelly said Cooper has failed the Nashville community he’s represented for decades.
“It shouldn’t take 40 years to get something good done,” she said. “Representative Cooper has had decades in Congress, and we don’t know what he’s done. When you look at what I’ve done for Nashville, I’ve got receipts.”
Justice Democrats back:
“As someone who has spent her life as a public servant and a community organizer, Odessa Kelly is exactly the kind of Democrat we need in Congress,” Justice Democrats executive director Alexandra Rojas told BuzzFeed News. “Our grassroots movement has shocked the nation in two cycles and we are prepared to do it again. It’s time to usher in a new generation of progressive leadership into the Democratic Party.”
The group has recently backed the successful campaigns of New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Missouri Rep. Cori Bush. It also backed the less successful campaigns of Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Alex Morse in Massachusetts, and Jessica Cisneros in Texas.
“The biggest thing I’ve taken from other Justice Democrats candidates is the validation of what we feel as everyday regular people is correct,” Kelly said.
Kelly backs economic recovery for Nashville:
Kelly said her campaign comes after a difficult year for her community.
“We’ve been through it,” she said. “In this past year alone, we’ve had a tornado, a pandemic, a bombing, and a flood.”
Kelly said she would focus on addressing recovery efforts and boosting economic aid, housing justice, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal.
Kelly said she is particularly focused on the union jobs in the Green New Deal.
“The union has been a way for us to [have] a pathway out of poverty,” she said. “And it’s a way for us to do it again.”
Cooper, meanwhile, is a member of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. Justice Democrats have criticized Cooper as “Republican-lite” and slammed him for his past votes to cut safety net programs, raise the Social Security age, and cut Medicare and Medicaid. Cooper was one of just 11 Democrats who voted against Obama’s stimulus package in 2009.