Steny Hoyer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Talk Democratic Unity

'I think she has an understanding that not everybody has the district she has,' Hoyer says

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., spoke with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the candidate who bested Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley in New York’s District 14 primary last month, about the importance of Democrats being unified and focused on winning the majority. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer spoke with Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently about the importance of Democrats being unified in their effort to win the majority.

The phone call last Thursday came four weeks after Ocasio-Cortez upset Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley in New York’s District 14 primary.

Hoyer said he congratulated Ocasio-Cortez on her victory and they had a “good conversation” in which he urged her to focus on Democrats winning back the House. 

“I think she has an understanding that not everybody has the district she has,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Taking advantage of her newfound notoriety, Ocasio-Cortez has become active in other congressional races, endorsing some like-minded progressive candidates and hitting the campaign trail for some of her preferences. 

While she has backed some candidates in competitive races, Ocasio-Cortez has likely ruffled more feathers by supporting challengers taking on incumbent Democrats.

For example, Ocasio-Cortez traveled to St. Louis on Saturday to rally supporters for activist Cori Bush, who is challenging Missouri Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay in the 1st District primary on Aug. 7 . 

Bush was one of a handful of candidates Ocasio-Cortez touted on the night of her upset victory against Crowley, including Ayanna Pressley, who is challenging Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano, and Chardo Richardson, who is challenging Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy

Ocasio-Cortez has also campaigned for Democratic candidates who are looking to take on GOP incumbents. 

On Friday she traveled with independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to Kansas. The pair rallied supporters for labor lawyer Brent Welder, a former Sanders organizer, in the 3rd District, which is a top target for Democrats this cycle.

Welder is one a handful of frontrunners in the crowded primary, and national Democrats are confident that any of the top contenders would be strong challengers against GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder.

Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders headlined a rally for civil rights attorney James Thompson in Kansas’s 4th District. Thompson is hoping to unseat  Rep. Ron Estes after losing to him in a special election last year. The district is traditionally Republican, but Thompson made the special election race closer than expected. 

Hoyer said he did not get into specifics about Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign efforts or her endorsements, but he made clear she should ensure her efforts are conducive to helping Democrats win in the November general election. 

While perhaps not as explicit, the minority whip’s conversation with Ocasio-Cortez seemed to communicate a similar message as one he delivered during a December conversation with then-Democratic candidate Levi Tillemann.

Hoyer had urged Tillemann to drop out of the Democratic primary in Colorado’s 6th District to clear the field for the eventual Democratic nominee, Jason Crow.

After The Intercept reported on a recording Tilleman’s campaign had of that conversation, Hoyer defended his communication with the candidate, saying Democratic leaders believe it’s important to have candidates in tough districts that can win and they “work towards that end.”


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