U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders came to the defense of Texas congressional candidate Laura Moser, denouncing national Democrats after they took the extraordinary step of trying to damage her chances days before the Tuesday primary.
In an interview Thursday, the Vermont independent and 2016 presidential candidate said he thought it was "outrageous" that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee came out against Moser before the 7th Congressional District primary, posting negative research about her in an apparent effort to keep her from advancing. The American people, Sanders added, "want to see serious debate about serious issues, not efforts to tear down candidates."
After the DCCC launched its opposition, Moser won the backing of Our Revolution, the national political group that grew out of Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. (Its state affiliate was already backing her.) Despite the last-minute attacks, Moser moved on to a runoff Tuesday with the top vote-getter, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. They are vying to take on U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston.
"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 said. "That's just not acceptable. I suspect that it backfired on them, and I hope they don't do it again."
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Sanders spoke with The Texas Tribune ahead of a two-day trip to the state. He's set to appear Friday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin and to headline a rally in San Antonio. On Saturday, Sanders is scheduled to stage another rally — this one in the Republican stronghold of Lubbock.
Sanders said he is willing to go "wherever there are working people, there are people who are hurting" — even if it means venturing into territory solidly won by President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
"It makes no difference to me," he said. "In fact, I kind of gravitate toward those areas that are strongly pro-Trump. ... Our job is to bring people together around an agenda that works for the working people, not the billionaire class."
Sanders was a topic of discussion earlier this week in Texas politics, when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, used Sanders to paint Cruz's Democratic opponent, Beto O'Rourke, as too liberal for Texas voters. Cruz said O'Rourke is "running like Bernie Sanders across the state, and the voters of Texas will have a decision of what policies and values reflect their own values."
Asked Thursday about the dig, Sanders said he did not know much about O'Rourke or his campaign. But, Sanders added, if O'Rourke is "running across Texas sounding like Bernie Sanders, that's a good thing."
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