WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus was ousted this evening in a primary stunner by a 28-year-old political newcomer.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), a 10-term incumbent and NYC native, represents his state’s 14th congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx. The fourth-ranking House Dem had been floated as a potential speaker of the House if the Democrats take control in midterm elections.
His challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, ran to the left of the leading House Dem and made a bit of history just by running against Crowley — the chairman of the Queens County Democrats hadn’t had a primary challenger in 14 years. In one scheduled debate against Ocasio-Cortez, Crowley sent a surrogate.
Ocasio-Cortez protested outside of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Texas last weekend, and campaigned on abolishing ICE as well as establishing universal healthcare.
“The child detention camps are here – I confronted the border officers myself. Using their names, I told them exactly what they are responsible for,” she tweeted Sunday. “One of them made eye contact with me. I spoke directly to him. I saw his sense of guilt. We can dismantle this.”
The 14th District is nearly half Hispanic, a little over 18 percent white, just over 11 percent African-American, and about 16 percent Asian-American.
“Today I saw people voting that are almost never seen in an off-year midterm primary. Just now, as I’m typing this with 8 minutes left, two young men of color, 20 years old, just walked up to me and said they just voted. 2 yrs ago, the ‘experts’ told me not to bother with them,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted around the time polls closed. “But I knew that in refusing to engage with non-voters, we were churning a cycle of neglect and cynicism. So I reached out. And we have been embraced. We have built power. We have organized. What we have built is permanent. No. Matter. What.”
Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx native and graduate of Boston University, says in her campaign bio that she worked for late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) “handling foreign affairs and immigration casework for constituent families.” She worked as an educational director with high-school youths and as an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign. Among other things, she hit at Crowley for having a permanent residence in Virginia.
Sanders issued a statement congratulating Ocasio-Cortez for her “extraordinary upset victory.”
“She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory,” Sanders said. “She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.”
Crowley spent $3.4 million in the race compared to Ocasio-Cortez’s expenditure of $200,000.
With more than 95 percent of precincts reporting, Ocasio-Cortez had 57.5 percent of the vote compared to 42.5 percent for Crowley.
Crowley closed out his election night party by conceding the race and playing Bruce Springsteen.
— David Freedlander (@freedlander) June 27, 2018
President Trump tweeted, “Wow! Big Trump Hater Congressman Joe Crowley, who many expected was going to take Nancy Pelosi’s place, just LOST his primary election. In other words, he’s out! That is a big one that nobody saw happening. Perhaps he should have been nicer, and more respectful, to his President!”
Several New York Dems ran unopposed in the primary, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez, Hakeem Jeffries, Jerrold Nadler, Adriano Espaillat, Jose Serrano, Nita Lowey, Sean Patrick Maloney, Paul Tonko, and Brian Higgins. New York Republicans Lee Zeldin, Peter King, Elise Stefanik, Chris Collins, John Katko, Thomas Reed, Claudia Tenney and John Faso similarly were unopposed in their primaries.
Former Rep. Michael Grimm (D-N.Y.), who served eight months for tax evasion and once threatened to throw a reporter off the Capitol balcony and break him “like a boy,” was unsuccessful in his comeback attempt, losing the GOP primary in the 11th District to Rep. Dan Donovan.