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Young Wave of Progressives Making Bid For House

A wave of young progressives is looking to follow AOC to the House
Stevens Orozco, the son of undocumented immigrants, wants to unseat one of Texas' most liberal members of Congress. To Orozco, the 13-term Democrat is just not liberal enough.
Stevens Orozco hands out literature to potential voters while campaigning outside of the Acres Home Multi-Service Center in Houston.
Stevens Orozco, a progressive candidate challenging Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in a Democratic primary, hands out campaign flyers in Houston.Annie Mulligan / for NBC News
 
March 1, 2020, 8:30 AM CST
By Mike Hixenbaugh

 

HOUSTON — Stevens Orozco awoke before dawn on Wednesday, as he does each weekday, and headed to the charter school where he teaches health and psychology. His middle and high school students were taking state-mandated exams, which meant a light day for the second-year teacher.

After dismissal that afternoon, Orozco bolted to his car, grabbed a handful of campaign flyers and drove to a community center on Houston’s northside. The parking lot was teeming with election volunteers and voters who had come to cast early ballots in Texas’ Super Tuesday primary elections.

 

Orozco, 33, the son of undocumented Colombian immigrants, waved for a woman to stop her car as she pulled up to the voting site.

“My name is Stevens Orozco, and I’m running for Congress here in District 18,” he said, handing her a glossy flyer with his picture on it. “I’m running on the most progressive agenda, taking no corporate donations. I support the Green New Deal, ‘Medicare for All,’ student loan forgiveness and immigration reform, as well as reparations for slavery and criminal justice reform. And I would appreciate your vote today.”

Orozco talks to votersOrozco hopes to win voters with an aggressive agenda to combat climate change, expand access to health care and reform the criminal justice system. Annie Mulligan / for NBC News

 

After repeating variations of those lines thousands of times in recent months, Orozco can deliver the pitch in under 15 seconds. The woman smiled and committed to supporting him.

“It feels good when they say yes,” Orozco said a moment later. “Usually they don’t say anything and you’ve just got to hope the message resonated.”

That’s the question facing Orozco and other Democratic candidates who share his fervent progressive views: Is the message resonating with voters? He’s part of a wave of young, unapologetically left-wing candidates who are mounting primary challenges against older Democratic incumbents in solidly Democratic congressional districts and local races, in Texas and across the country.

 

These candidates are inspired by the anti-establishment message of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has the most delegates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and by the rise of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old democratic socialist who became a national star when she unseated a 10-term incumbent Democrat in New York City two years ago. Many are millennials and political newcomers, motivated by their experiences coming of age amid the 2008 financial crisis. Others got started as activists on the front lines of battles over police brutality, gun violence, climate change and immigration.

And like Orozco, most are facing extraordinarily long odds of victory. Orozco is challenging Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat running for a 14th term, who has a long-standing reputation as one of the more liberal members of Congress, though Orozco argues she has not gone far enough on issues such as climate change and immigration reform.

“They are long-shot bids, sure, but so was AOC,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, referring to Ocasio-Cortez by her now-famous initials. “So the prospect of catching lightning in a bottle again is what many of these candidates and these groups are looking for.”

 

In South Texas, Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration attorney, has been endorsed by both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez in her campaign to unseat Rep. Henry Cuellar, a 64-year-old pro-gun, pro-trade centrist backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We want this to be not only a victory, but a resounding victory for Henry Cuellar,” Pelosi told a crowd of Cuellar campaign workers and supporters during a stop in Laredo last week.

Image: Elizabeth Warren, Jessica SisnerosJessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old Democratic candidate for Congress in Texas' 28th district, has been endorsed by leading progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren.Nick Wagner / AP

 

The race is considered the first serious challenge against a Democratic incumbent of the 2020 election cycle. In some ways, the contrast between Cisneros and Cuellar reflects the broader ideological rift defining the Democratic presidential primary, with Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushing aggressively left-wing policies, while others, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, are taking more centrist positions.

Cisneros said she’s running to give a voice to a new generation of voters who are eager for sweeping changes in Washington.

“One of the most encouraging things about running is seeing how younger folks have responded to our race,” Cisneros told Vice News this week.

 

Moderate Democrats aren’t the only ones being targeted. In another Houston race, Rep. Al Green, who made national headlines as the first House Democrat to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, is facing a primary challenge for the first time since being elected to Congress in 2004, from a 36-year-old mortgage broker, Melissa Mechelle Wilson, who says she’s running to expand affordable housing and overhaul the criminal justice system.

“You can do a great job and still get an opponent,” Green told the Houston Chronicle, when asked about the new primary challenges. “The system allows for that. I respect the system.”

Rottinghaus said these progressive challengers remind him of the political revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, when a new generation of candidates and young voters, outraged by the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, pushed for a vast expansion of civil rights and environmental reforms. As was the case then, Rottinghaus said, progressive candidates could succeed in moving the Democratic Party further to the left, even if they failed to win many seats in the process.

 
Stevens Orozco at his homeOrozco said his upbringing as the son of undocumented immigrants helped shape his political views and inspired his run for Congress. Annie Mulligan / for NBC News

 

That’s why Orozco said he decided to challenge Jackson Lee, despite her liberal credentials. Orozco called the 70-year-old congresswoman “an incomplete advocate,” arguing that her support for efforts to combat climate change or overhaul the immigration system has been tepid, whereas he would make those his top priorities and be a vocal advocate for them.

“She’s not all the way there on the issues,” Orozco said. “For example, it wasn’t until November, after we had entered this race, that she finally signed onto the Green New Deal resolution, and she did so quietly. And that’s because her record shows a history of donations from the oil and gas industry.”

 

In response to an interview request, a Jackson Lee campaign official sent a statement from the incumbent defending her record as a progressive leader in Congress.

“I believe we can lift up all our people by securing universal access to health care and a quality public education, making progress on climate change and flood mitigation, getting people off the street and into decent housing, creating good-paying jobs and providing the job and skills training to give our people an opportunity to succeed,” Jackson Lee said in the statement, noting that she has been endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives. “I am proud to have passed legislation to reform our criminal justice system — and will continue fighting to make the system more fair and just.”

 

Much More at Link:

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/wave-young-progressives-looking-follow-aoc-house-n1145506


Man learns from history that man learns nothing from history.
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