Seeking Publicity, Delaney Challenges AOC to Health Care Debate After Being Booed in Calif.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has come to define socialism in the U.S. Facebook photo

Now that he’s the only presidential candidate for 2020 from Maryland, following Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s decision to skip the White House race, is former congressman John K. Delaney (D) trying to have a “Sister Souljah moment”?

Delaney has been getting some attention on the campaign trail in recent days – but perhaps not the kind he had hoped for.

CNN aired a segment on Monday featuring Delaney getting booed during the California Democratic Convention this weekend after he criticized other campaigns for promising “Medicare for All.”

“Medicare for All may sound good, but it’s actually not good policy, nor is it good politics,” Delaney said, while being overwhelmed with boos from the crowd. Delaney clarified that he does support universal health care, but said his plan for achieving it would not eliminate private insurance.

The comment drew sustained disapproval at the convention center in San Francisco, followed by a rebuke on Twitter from freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who called Delaney’s comment “an awful, untrue line” and suggested he should bow out of the race.

“John Delaney, thank you but please sashay away,” the congresswoman tweeted, along with a waving hand emoji.

Former Rep. John K. Delaney (D), the lone presidential contender from Maryland.

Delaney responded by challenging her to a debate on any television show of her choosing, which would undoubtedly boost his own exposure. (Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet attracted more than 9,900 retweets and 60,000-plus likes, compared to nearly 350 retweets and about 1,700 likes on Delaney’s challenge message. Her political Twitter account has 4.3 million followers; his White House campaign account has 21,200 followers.)

But sometimes controversy is better than no attention at all, especially when you are trying to break through in a presidential primary campaign with almost two dozen contenders. Delaney’s campaign released statements in response to the kerfuffles at the convention and on Twitter.

“A few boos aren’t a big deal, making a really bad mistake on health care is. We can’t be dedicated to slogans and must ensure that a real debate happens. Most of the Democrats in this field either don’t want to take this on or are trying to play it both ways, but I don’t think that’s responsible,” Delaney said in his statement.

Michael Starr Hopkins, Delaney’s national press secretary, said in a separate statement that the response from the crowd in San Francisco,“while not surprising, was certainly disappointing.”

After the Ocasio-Cortez tweet, Hopkins said the only person who was helped by the Democratic infighting was President Trump.

“If Democrats are serious about beating the President at the ballot box, we need less political grandstanding and more truth-telling from the Bernie wing of the party,” Hopkins said. “2016 should have taught us that if we allow this primary to become a popularity contest on Twitter rather than a debate of ideas in the public square, the country will lose. We’ve seen this playbook before and it ends with a second term for Donald Trump.”

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez said Medicare-for-All is good policy and she argued that a centrist Democratic nominee for president would lead to Trump’s reelection.

Delaney continued on to campaign events in Iowa after the convention and defended his health care plan in a long interview with Vox and on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press Daily.”

Also on Saturday, Delaney’s campaign expressed disappointment at not getting some help from across the aisle in trying to defeat Trump. After Hogan announced he would not enter the 2020 fray against Trump, Hopkins said Republicans as well as Democrats should be stepping up to challenge the president.

“America needs more Republicans to stand up for decency and for our Democracy, not less. [Michigan] Congressman [Justin] Amash shouldn’t have to carry the burden of the entire Republican Party. I hope that in the coming days more Republicans find the courage to stand up to a lawless President,” Hopkins said.

Earlier this year, Delaney had urged Hogan and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) to take on Trump in 2020, saying a GOP primary challenge “would do an enormous service to not just their party, but to their fellow Americans.”

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Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.

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