Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar’s campaign hit back this week after a second member of the so-called “Squad” endorsed his primary challenger, Jessica Cisneros.
After freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., endorsed Cisneros Tuesday, Cuellar campaign spokesman Colin Strother said in a statement to Fox News that his challenger is focused on “out of state endorsements from PACs and celebrities, while we are focused on continuing to build support within the district.
“This is the Border, not the Bronx and not Boston,” Strother said. “We believe the congressman’s more conservative values and proven record of building consensus to get things done is more in line with the values and priorities of the district. We look forward to the opportunity to compare our record with that of our opponent.”
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Pressley’s endorsement of the 26-year-old challenger comes just a week after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also backed Cisneros, praising the former Cuellar intern’s progressive chops. The Cuellar campaign’s mention of the Bronx was a clear reference to Ocasio-Cortez.
“When [Cisneros] is elected, not only will I no longer be the youngest person in Congress — I’ll have a strong new ally in the fight for ‘Medicare for all,’ getting corporate money out of politics, and fixing our broken immigration system,” Ocasio-Cortez said, according to the group Justice Democrats.
Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also endorsed Cisneros.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, speaks with the media in front of the West Wing after a bipartisan meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Washington. Cuellar is facing a primary challenge from the left by Cisneros.
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Strother also took a shot at Cisneros for being backed by Justice Democrats, the organization that originally boosted Ocasio-Cortez in her successful primary challenge against former Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.
“The two candidates could hardly be more different,” he said. “Congressman Cuellar has lived in this district his entire life and represented it for 15 years in Congress, while our opponent has lived here for only four months after being recruited by a socialist organization in New York City.”
Pressley, with her endorsement, said Cisneros was dedicated to progressive issues that the “Squad” has advanced, the Texas Tribune reported Tuesday.
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“Our country is at a crossroads, and as the Administration in Washington, DC continues to advance hateful, draconian policies targeting women, immigrants, and other marginalized communities, the experience and determination of candidates like Jessica Cisneros is more essential than ever,” Pressley said in a statement, according to the Tribune. “A human rights attorney, Jessica has devoted her life to fighting for those in her community – now, she is following that work to Congress, to stand up for everyone who is being targeted by this Administration.”
Earlier Tuesday, though, Strother disputed Pressley’s characterization of Cisneros as a “human rights attorney.” The Laredo Morning Times reported when Cisneros launched her campaign in June that after graduating from the University of Texas Law School, she spent less than a year in a legal fellowship program in New York called Brooklyn Defenders Service, which practices immigration law.
Ocasio-Cortez, along with other liberal House freshmen, has clashed with the Democratic establishment over primary challenges before. Earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) even decided it would blacklist political firms that work against sitting members of Congress.
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Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley both criticized that stance.
“The @DCCC’s new rule to blacklist boycott anyone who does business w/ primary challengers is extremely divisive & harmful to the party,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in March. “My recommendation, if you’re a small-dollar donor: pause your donations to DCCC &give directly to swing candidates instead.”
Fox News’ Sam Dorman, Judson Berger and Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.