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BAD BLUES: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be 'Primaried'

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Cuellar has a lifetime environmental ranking of 42 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, the second-lowest among all Democrats in the House.

While Cuellar's district includes urban areas like Laredo and part of San Antonio, he votes in line with the NRA, which gave him 93 percent ratings in both 2016 and 2018; he also collects checks from the NRA Political Victory Fund, leading to headlines like this: "Meet the Last NRA Democrat ."

Cuellar's vote-like-a-Republican dance is an old routine. What's new is that he's facing a progressive primary challenger-- immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, endorsed by Justice Democrats.

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ELIOT ENGEL (NY-16)

For someone in the Democratic leadership, this 16-term Congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is notable for repeatedly breaking with his own party to support Republican foreign policy positions. In 2003, when most House Democrats refused to authorize an invasion of Iraq, Engel voted for President Bush's disastrous war. In 2015, he was one of only 25 House Democrats to join Republicans in opposing President Obama's historic Iran nuclear deal.

Engel's support for hawkish Republicanism has continued into the Trump era. Engel sided with President-elect Trump's machinations and against President Obama by castigating Obama for not vetoing a UN resolution (the US abstained) against Israel's expansion of illegal settlements. He was one of the few House Democrats to applaud Trump's destabilizing move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. A defender of strong US-Saudi relations, Engel helped delay a Democratic initiative last year to end US support for the devastating Saudi bombing of Yemen. His ascent to House Foreign Affairs chair was cheered by Republican-aligned hawks, including one who called Obama "a Jew-hating anti-Semite ."

Covering parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, NY-16 is a thoroughly Democratic district where Clinton beat Trump by 75 to 22 percent. The district is now more than 60 percent black, Latino or Asian. It's 12 percent Jewish, and Engel's hardline views on Israel (and Iran) are out-of-step with most Jewish Democrats .

Since entering Congress back in 1989 by primarying a Democratic incumbent, Engel hadn't faced a serious primary challenge himself in two decades. Until now . Two progressives have entered the primary, both highlighting their opposition to Engel's pro-war record -- special education teacher Andom Ghebreghiorgis and middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, who is endorsed by Justice Democrats, a group that was crucial to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 2018 victory.

Congressman Engel has long affiliated with the corporate wing of the party, as part of the New Democrat Coalition and formerly the Democratic Leadership Council. Although liberal on many domestic issues, his militarism and support of ever-higher military budgets subvert the possibilities for an expansive domestic agenda.

Engel, whose district borders that of Ocasio-Cortez, is active in the intraparty battle against progressives who question the foreign policy status quo. When Muslim-American Representative Ilhan Omar challenged the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby, Engel was one of two Democrats who sparked the effort to censure Omar for supposed "anti-Semitism." A few years earlier, Engel was a featured speaker at a "pro-Israel" rally that also featured infamous right-wing anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller. No resolution was proposed to censure Engel.

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JOSH GOTTHEIMER (NJ-5)

Very few House Democrats are more eager to align with the GOP than Josh Gottheimer. During his first two years in Congress, he voted with Trump a whopping 55 percent of the time . Gottheimer cochairs the reach-across-the-aisle Problem Solvers Caucus; his official website says he leads the group "to find areas of agreement" for such goals as "lowering taxes" and "cutting burdensome and unnecessary regulation." Gottheimer's generous Wall Street patrons are no doubt gratified.

A former precocious speechwriter for President Bill Clinton at age 23, he has won acclaim from corporate leaders for his congressional efforts. Last year, the US Chamber of Commerce gave Gottheimer its "Spirit of Enterprise Award" -- which, his office noted, made him "one of only 13 Democrats in the House" to receive the plaudit. Gottheimer quickly returned the compliment, declaring that the anti-union and anti-environmental Chamber "has been a voice for economic growth and a champion for opportunity and prosperity for Americans and businesses of all sizes."

Gottheimer "has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel," The Intercept's Ryan Grim reported in May -- and deep hostility toward the two progressive Muslims who became colleagues this year, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. After meeting with him, Tlaib recalled: "He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he's a bully. He had a goal of breaking me down."

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Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon (more...)
 
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