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Pushing for 'Political Courage,' Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Slate of Progressive Women Challenging Establishment

"If we're going to build an economy...that centers working-class families, things must change. And that starts by electing new progressive leaders who exemplify political courage."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) attends a House Financial Services Committee organizational meeting in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday released her first slate of endorsements through her political action committee, Courage to Change, announcing her backing of seven progressive women running for congressional seats.

Several of the candidates primary challengers to more centrist Democrats who have the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and other establishment Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez's list includes House candidates Teresa Fernandez of New Mexico, Samelys López of New York, and Georgette Gómez of California, who are all running for open seats. López, who has experienced homelessness in the past, called Ocasio-Cortez's support "a great honor."

The congresswoman also endorsed Kara Eastman, who is challenging Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.); and Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, a labor activist who is challenging Democrat M.J. Hegar and several other candidates for the Senate seat held by Texas Republican John Cornyn. Hegar is supported by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

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Tzintzún Ramirez was also recently endorsed by Lone Star Forward PAC, a committee with ties to Way to Win, another progressive organization.

Courage to Change also officially announced its endorsement of two more progressives who are challenging longtime conservative Democratic lawmakers: Marie Newman of Illinois and Jessica Cisneros of Texas. Ocasio-Cortez said last year that she was endorsing the two candidates.

All of the endorsed candidates back progressive priorities like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and environmental justice.

"One of our primary goals is to reward political courage in Congress and also to help elect a progressive majority in the House of Representatives," Ocasio-Cortez told the New York Times. "There's kind of a dual nature to this: One is opening the door to newcomers, and the other is to reward members of Congress that are exhibiting very large amounts of political courage."

Courage to Change was set up in January with the aim of helping "working-class champions" and working people get elected to public office. Ocasio-Cortez worked in the service industry just months before her surprise primary victory against former Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district.

"All of our endorsed candidates refuse corporate PAC donations and center their movements on an inclusive message that puts working-families first—not wealthy donors," wrote Ocasio-Cortez in an email to supporters Friday. The congresswoman began her PAC after the DCCC announced it would blacklist any political consultants who advised primary challengers to incumbent Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez has refused to pay dues to the DCCC due to the blacklist, declining to contribute to a fund which could harm Newman's and Cisneros's campaigns, and has instead raised money on her own for progressives.

"If we're going to build an economy that works for all, a democracy that includes everyone, and a society that centers working-class families, things must change," Ocasio-Cortez wrote Friday, "And that starts by electing new progressive leaders who exemplify political courage, who refuse to bow to corporate interests, and who will fight for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice for all."

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