Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Alessandra Biaggi Against Top House Democrat

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) endorsed state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s congressional bid on Tuesday, heightening the stakes of New York Democrats’ post-redistricting musical chairs game.

Biaggi is competing with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D), the influential chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for the Democratic nomination in New York’s redrawn 17th Congressional District.

Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of Biaggi, an ally since 2018, is the rare case of a member of Congress supporting a primary candidate running against a fellow member of the same state congressional delegation. It highlights the degree to which court-ordered redistricting has upended internal Democratic Party dynamics ahead of what is expected to be a bruising midterm election cycle for the party.

“We can count on her to stand with our movement on critical issues such as abortion rights, championing the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and fighting to raise the minimum wage,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “We have an incredible opportunity to continue building progressive power by electing Alessandra.”

Ocasio-Cortez and Biaggi have been kindred political spirits since Biaggi ousted rogue Democratic state Sen. Jeffrey Klein in the Bronx months after Ocasio-Cortez landed her upset against former Rep. Joe Crowley. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Biaggi’s run in that district, which overlapped with part of Ocasio-Cortez’s.

“I am an underdog in this race, just like I was in 2018,” Biaggi told HuffPost.

The endorsement will “signal to others, especially as we continue to coalition-build, that this is the campaign to join if you are an individual who wants to elect somebody who fights for the working people instead of somebody who puts his corporate donors first,” the state lawmaker added.

Ocasio-Cortez’s blessing will come with a more immediate, tangible benefit as well. The progressive icon is using her massive campaign email list to fundraise for Biaggi on Tuesday.

In the email appeal, Ocasio-Cortez asks supporters to take advantage of “an incredible opportunity to continue building progressive power by electing Alessandra.”

Biaggi will need all the financial help she can get. As head of House Democrats’ campaign arm and a business-friendly lawmaker, Maloney is a top fundraiser. He had over $2 million in cash on hand as of the end of March.

“Local voices are what matters in this race and they’re overwhelmingly supporting me,” Maloney told The New York Times, which first reported the endorsement.

Maloney, who is white and openly gay, drew criticism in May when he announced that he would be running in New York’s 17th, a suburban seat currently held by Rep. Mondaire Jones, one of Congress’ first two openly gay Black men. Court-ordered redistricting had moved Maloney’s home into the district, but the majority of the seat was new terrain for him.

Jones ultimately decided to run in an entirely new district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

But progressives like Biaggi, who had been running in a different seat before new district lines were unveiled in May, were dissatisfied. She has argued that as the Democrat responsible for helping the party hold the House, Maloney’s decision to abandon New York’s 18th Congressional District — the more centrist seat he currently represents — “hurt the party.”

Biaggi now faces an awkward district hop of her own. She currently lives a 15-minute drive south of New York’s 17th, but she and her husband are planning a move into the district in the coming weeks.

She is betting that the prevailing dissatisfaction with elected Democrats on issues like rising gas prices could benefit a progressive gatecrasher.

“This race is not just about standing against him, but really, also about the direction of the Democratic Party,” Biaggi said.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs House Democrats’ campaign arm, is a formidable fundraiser. He angered progressives by deciding to run in a more liberal district.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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