Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been quietly shoring up his support among progressives, according to a new report from Politico, ahead of a possible primary challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who is likely to be redistricted out of her seat in Congress.
New York state has lost a significant enough portion of its population to force its legislature to redraw its congressional districts, leaving one of the state’s Representatives out of a job. Ocasio-Cortez, who has not ingratiated herself to New York’s Democrats, preferring to build a more national profile than assist the state party in fundraising, is the most likely Representative to be booted from office — and she, reportedly, has Schumer’s Senate seat in her sights.
But while she may be waiting to make her candidacy for Senate official until she’s gotten a better sense of how well she would do in a statewide race, as opposed to a contest limited to a New York City borough, Chuck Schumer is building a strong foundation designed to edge out a progressive primary challenger.
“New York, the veteran senator’s home state, is the epicenter of the progressive movement’s efforts to oust incumbent Democrats in Congress,” Politico reports. “And Schumer, who is up for reelection in 2022, has been taking steps both publicly and privately to steel himself from a left-wing primary challenge — especially from his biggest threat, Ocasio-Cortez.”
Those efforts involve reaching out directly to organizations that see Ocasio-Cortez as their lone champion in Congress. Most notably, Schumer tried to forge a relationship with the far-left environmental group, Sunrise Movement — the first group Ocasio-Cortez met with in Washington, D.C., joining them for a sit-in in front of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office before she’d even moved into her Congressional quarters.
Schumer has also been quietly moving further left where appropriate — and where the effort is likely to bear fruit among Ocasio-Cortez’s supporters.
“In the two years since [reaching out to Sunrise], Schumer has thrown his weight behind a plan to cancel student loan debt by executive order. He’s voted against the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He’s said ‘nothing is off the table’ when it comes to eliminating the filibuster. And that’s only a fraction of the progressive moves he’s made in recent years. It still hasn’t inoculated him from the possibility of a primary,” Politico says.
That’s all designed to preserve his seat in Congress, the outlet suggests, though progressives say they’ll be watching Schumer in Congress now that he’s in charge of the Senate. Many of Schumer’s previous, more progressive, positions were convenient, they noted because it was unlikely then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would have brought them to the floor. Now the situation is different, though Schumer still does not appear to have the votes to pass things like filibuster reform.
If he fails, Ocasio-Cortez’s allies say she’s open to the challenge.
“They think she would win,” they told Politico.