By Alex Pappas
Published March 05, 2019
Moderate Democrats are fuming over New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s closed-door warning last week that Democrats who vote with Republicans are "putting themselves on a list" – a comment interpreted as a primary challenge threat.
Ocasio-Cortez has since downplayed her comments, made in the wake of 26 Democrats joining Republicans to vote for a provision requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified if illegal immigrants attempt to purchase guns.
Still, some House Democrats aren’t happy with her talk of a “list.”
“I don't think it's productive,” Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee said Saturday on Fox News’ “Cavuto Live.”
He added, “I don't think we should be interfering with one another's politics. The people who elected us get to make those choices.”
New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the word “list” was “Nixonian.”
“Being unified means ensuring that Democrats aren’t primary-ing other sitting Democrats,” Gottheimer told The Washington Post. “Since when is it okay to put you on a Nixonian list? We need to have a big tent in our party or we won’t keep the House or win the White House.”
The brouhaha began last week when two-dozen moderate Democrats broke from their party's progressive wing and sided with Republicans on a legislative amendment having to do with illegal immigrants and guns.
In a closed-door meeting afterward, according to The Washington Post, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scolded her wayward center-leaning colleagues, telling them: "We are either a team or we’re not.”
Ocasio-Cortez then told fellow Democrats that those who voted with Republicans were "putting themselves on a list." Ocasio-Cortez later claimed she wasn’t talking about a list for primary challenges.
“I didn’t say that they were putting themselves on a list for primaries," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "I said that by Dems distinguishing themselves by breaking off on procedural…votes, they were inadvertently making a list of targets for the GOP and for progressive advocates on their pro-ICE vote.”
Reacting to Ocasio-Cortez's comments, one party strategist who works for moderate Democrats argued Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t “respect” the views of other Democrats who don’t embrace her progressive politics.
“My main gripe about AOC is that while I respect her voice in the party, I don't think she respects mine or anyone else's who differs with her on policy or comes from a different political electoral reality,” said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster in Alabama.
There’s been speculation since she was elected to Congress that Ocasio-Cortez could get involved in Democratic primary fights in 2020, especially with the group Justice Democrats signaling plans to primary incumbent Democrats they see as insufficiently progressive. Ocasio-Cortez has been aligned with that group.
It's a tactic that has been embraced by some conservative groups and politicians on the right, especially during the 2010 and 2012 elections, when incumbent lawmakers in the House and Senate were ousted in primaries by conservative challengers.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.