WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders is warning the Democratic Party not to attack its own candidates in primary battles, as happened in a Houston-area congressional race.
The Vermont senator said it's "appalling" that the party's congressional campaign arm targeted Laura Moser ahead of Tuesday's primary election. Moser, an activist, is endorsed by Sanders' Our Revolution group.
Sanders told The Associated Press on Wednesday that such attacks are "not acceptable."
Moser advanced to a runoff with Democratic front-runner Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, despite the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee publishing an opposition research memo calling her "a Washington insider who begrudgingly moved to Texas" to run for Congress.
A Houston native who attended high school there, Moser was also targeted by the campaign arm for joking that she'd "rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia" than live in small-town Texas.
"What these organizations should not be doing is doing negative attacks on Democratic candidates," said Sanders. "That just continues the process of debasing the Democratic system in this country and is why so many people are disgusted with politics."
Sanders, whose Our Revolution is backing candidates nationwide, is headed to Texas this week for rallies in San Antonio and Lubbock.
Democrats have their sights set on the Houston-area congressional seat, where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as a potential pickup as the party tries to wrest control of the House from Republicans.
The winner of the Democratic runoff on May 22 will face Republican incumbent Rep. John Culberson, who's seeking a 10th term, this fall.
Some Democrats worry that Moser would not be the strongest candidate to face the Republican in part because she had recently returned to Texas and because of her flip comment.
But the effort against her might have backfired since it focused national attention on the race and helped cause a spike in Moser's fundraising. The question remains, if she emerges from the primary, whether the ready-made attack ad will make her unelectable.