Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Left-Wing Challenger To Dem Campaign Chief

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is endorsing a left-wing primary challenger to Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and a fellow New York Democrat.

State sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a two-term incumbent, announced in May that she would challenge Maloney after the incumbent decided to move to the more Democrat-friendly 17th District from his current 18th. Biaggi defeated a more moderate Democrat in a 2018 primary, and became one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief critics in the state assembly.

“Through hard work, Alessandra was able to break through and deliver a series of progressive wins for New York State,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement announcing the endorsement. “Now, she’s ready to take her leadership to Congress where I know she’ll continue fighting for working people.”

Maloney moved districts after a special master, appointed by the New York Court of Appeals, drew a toss-up 18th District and a Democrat-leaning 17th District. The Court of Appeals previously rejected a map that would have made both districts Democrat-leaning. Maloney’s move forced fellow Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones out of the 17th District, which he currently represents, and into the New York City-based Tenth District.

Many New York Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, expressed anger with Maloney’s move, with the “Squad” leader calling it a “conflict of interest” for Maloney to attempt to take a fellow Democrat’s seat while leading the party’s campaign arm. (RELATED: Dem Leadership Closes Ranks To Help Top Member Unseat Young Black Left-Winger)

Maloney faced widespread criticism for his leadership of the DCCC even before the district switch. Moderate members like Stephanie Murphy of Florida accused Maloney and the DCCC of threatening to withhold campaign funds from incumbents over support for the Build Back Better Act. Murphy also suggested that Maloney used the DCCC to further his own leadership ambitions, even as it harmed the ability of members to run difficult races.

The DCCC’s spending has also come under a microscope during Maloney’s tenure. The campaign arm spent more than $592,000 on office furniture in August 2021, and more than $70,000 on flowers alone during the year. The DCCC also spent more than $800 on Air France tickets in June 2021, just weeks before Maloney and his husband were spotted in France and Italy on vacation.

Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed two other primary challengers to sitting Democrats in 2022. Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner lost by 40 points to Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown in a May 3 primary, and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros is losing to Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar by fewer than 300 votes with a recount looming.