Ms. Ocasio-Cortez caught Mr. Crowley off guard, but this time, Justice Democrats’ targets will see a challenge coming — although awareness is not necessarily a guarantee for survival. Months after Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, Ayanna S. Pressley, a Boston city councilwoman endorsed by the group, successfully toppled Michael Capuano, a 10-term Massachusetts congressman.
Mr. Shahid acknowledged that Justice Democrats, with 12 full-time and part-time staff members, had some missteps to learn from. He said the organization had to learn from “stretching ourselves too thin and not being as laser focused.”
He noted that the group would back a smaller group of candidates and focus solely on races in secure Democratic districts. Group members, during a conference call last week, said they had begun reaching out to people to discuss possible campaigns, but had not closed the endorsement window.
In 2018, Justice Democrats endorsed 78 candidates and recruited 12 to run for office, serving as a grass-roots political consulting firm and jump-starting campaigns. Out of those 12, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was the only one who won her general election. Six other endorsed candidates — three incumbents and three freshmen — also made it to Congress. All seven are in the House.
Many of the group’s candidates challenged races in districts that leaned Republican, and in several cases the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee worked hard to beat them back, worried that a Justice Democrats triumph in the primary would cost the party a potential seat. Lizzie Fletcher, for instance, beat the Justice Democrats candidate, Laura Moser, in a primary in the Houston suburbs, then went on to defeat the Republican incumbent, John Culberson, in a race that may have been far more difficult for her to win as a more liberal candidate.
In more Democratic districts, candidates supported by Justice Democrats came up disappointingly short. Marie Newman’s challenge to Mr. Lipinski, backed by some sitting Democratic lawmakers, was seen as a real opportunity to take down a congressman increasingly loathed by his own party. She lost, though Justice Democrats speculates that had her primary been after Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s, the momentum would have lifted her to victory.
This time around, the organization intends to spend more on fewer candidates and is working to build a larger infrastructure and a bigger fund-raising arm. During the monthly call last week, members outlined a new fellowship program in which people could learn about staffing a campaign and becoming part of a more permanent foundation for candidates’ races.