California Republican shows burning Ocasio-Cortez photo in new video promoting PAC

Fresno Republican Elizabeth Heng announced a new Political Action Committee on Thursday night during the Democratic presidential candidate debate in a video criticizing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and socialism.

The PAC, NewFacesGOP, aims to help elevate the next generation of Republicans, according to its website. The PAC, registered in Fresno, so far has raised under $200,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Most of its top donors are from outside the Central Valley.

The ad attacks Ocasio-Cortez as “ignorant,” and Heng, who lost in a 2018 bid to unseat Congressman Jim Costa, uses her parents’ story of escaping Cambodia to define socialism. The 30-second video shows a photo of Ocasio-Cortez bursting into flames to reveal images of the Cambodian Civil War from which her father fled.

“Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism?” she asks. “My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life. That’s socialism - forced obedience, starvation.

“Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white. I’m not outrageous, racist, nor a socialist,” she says. “I’m a Republican.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded to the ad in a tweet, calling it a “love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case.”

“Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist. Life is weird!” she tweeted.

Heng fired back a short time later.

“I’m calling all Democrats out for supporting an evil ideology,” Heng said. “Or are you just in Congress to hang out with celebrities and tweet out ridiculous ideas like the green new deal?”

Heng, in a brief telephone interview Thursday night, said she spearheaded the PAC to give back to her community and fight against what she described as the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party that’s promoting socialism.

Heng said that her run for Congress last year convinced her that if the Republican Party doesn’t broaden its base to include millennials, women and people of color, socialism will ruin the country.

Heng said she likes that Ocasio-Cortez talks about the future of the country, but Heng wants to provide a counter-message to Ocasio-Cortez.

This is not the first time Heng has used a provocative advertisement in politics.

During last year’s congressional race, she attempted to tie Costa to a polarizing national figure by depicting him “walking in Nancy Pelosi’s shoes.” The ad depicted Costa walking in a pair of high heels.

It’s also not the first time Heng has criticized Ocasio-Cortez.

When the Fresno Grizzlies mistakenly showed a video during the baseball team’s Memorial Day game likening Ocasio-Cortez to dictators, Heng wrote an op-ed in The Bee saying she thought the video was accurate.

“The fact is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow socialist Bernie Sanders – a man who honeymooned in the U.S.S.R. – are two of today’s most prominent advocates for an immoral economic and political system that has only resulted in death, destruction and oppression,” she wrote. “These are the experiences my parents lived firsthand in Cambodia.”

That piece drew backlash from Bee letter writers and criticism online.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.