The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continues to pay the price for its decision to go nuclear last month in a failed attempt to knock out a first-time congressional candidate in Texas. Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered the latest blow on Friday, and his remarks suggest that the left is unlikely to forgive and forget the DCCC’s very public effort to put a thumb on the scale in a competitive primary.
“I detest that type of politics,” Sanders said during a South by Southwest panel in Austin, Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle. “And I think most Americans do.” The Vermont senator added: “That is to my mind, absolutely unacceptable. And it’s got to end.”
That marked the second consecutive day that Bernie publicly shamed the DCCC for its decision to dump its opposition file on Laura Moser, a progressive journalist (who has written for Slate, among others) running in Texas’ 7th Congressional District. “I’m especially distressed that the DCCC tried to do negative attacks against a very respectable and intelligent candidate who is running a serious campaign,” Sanders told the Texas Tribune on Thursday. “That’s just not acceptable. I suspect that it backfired on them, and I hope they don’t do it again.”
Despite the broadside from Washington—or as Sanders seemed to suggest, because of it—Moser qualified Tuesday for a May runoff for the Democratic nomination. That means this already nasty intra-party fight between progressives and the party’s establishment could last for another two months. If nothing else, it will give the DCCC something to consider as it continues to grapple with how to harness the anti-Trump energy of its grassroots without angering it.
Moser had already made something of a name for herself on the left even before the DCCC went after her, but the public attack gave Sanders supporters flashbacks to the 2016 primary and unleashed another round of support. Our Revolution, a group that evolved out of Bernie’s 2016 campaign, quickly came to her defense with an endorsement, and small-dollar donations from around the country soon followed. Moser says she raised more than $100,000 in the six days following the attack, a significant slice of which, the campaign made no secret, came from small donors outside of her district.
Joining Moser in the runoff is Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston area attorney with the backing of some establishment-friendly Democratic groups but who has faced serious criticism from local unions. They say the firm she is a partner in once turned a courtroom into an “anti-union and anti-immigrant circus” while representing a commercial cleaning company in a lawsuit.
The winner of the runoff will go on to face Republican Rep. John Culberson in November in a race Democrats are hoping to flip on their way to retaking control of the House. Whether that happens very well may depend on whether the left and the establishment are still on speaking terms after Texas Democrats select their nominee.