The King of Queens has been dethroned.
Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens County Democratic Party boss who was in line to potentially become the next speaker of the House, was handed a stunning defeat by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bernie Sanders organizer who ran to Crowley’s left and as an antidote to machine politics.
Crowley conceded shortly after 10 p.m., at which time Ocasio-Cortez led him 57% to 42%, with 83% of precincts reporting in the low-turnout, last-day-of-school June primary.
The shocking upset of a machine boss by a political newcomer is the most significant primary loss by an incumbent Democrat in recent memory for the party, and one likely to reverberate.
“I wish nothing but the best for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. I want her to be victorious in the November elections,” Crowley, 56, said, before thanking unions and human rights groups for supporting him.”
President Trump wasted no time basking in Crowley’s defeat.
“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!” Trump tweeted Tuesday night. “That is a big one that nobody saw happening. Perhaps he should have been nicer, and more respectful, to his President!”
But Ocasio-Cortez is unlikely to be any nicer to Trump than Crowley — she ran as a progressive alternative to Crowley, and recently called for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement following Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy of separating parents from their children.
Crowley, who plays in a band, strummed a song for Ocasio-Cortez after he conceded — Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
Crowley had seemingly every advantage in the race – as the head of the Queens County machine, he is essentially the definition of a candidate with all of the institutional support. He had raised $3.35 million in the race – compared with just over $300,000 raised by Ocasio-Cortez.
Still, there were missteps. He ditched a debate in the district, sending in his place a former City Council member who, like Ocasio-Cortez, is a Hispanic woman. The move drew the ire of some in the community, and the attention of The New York Times, which editorialized about Crowley’s lack of interest in the forum.
In a statement after his loss, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Crowley, the No. 4 Democrat in the House, an “unwavering champion for America’s working families for almost two decades” who represented Queens and the Bronx with “fierce pride.”
“As chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Joe Crowley brought principled, unifying and forward-looking leadership to the historic challenges of the Trump administration,” she said. Our caucus has been strengthened by his chairmanship, and by Chairman Crowley’s relentless determination to defend the inclusive America symbolized by the Statue of Liberty.”
She added a sentence congratulating Ocasio-Cortez on her victory.
“It feels great,” Ocasio-Cortez said after the race had been called for her. “It’s crazy. It means we need to expand our advocacy for working-class Americans and people of color.”
Ocasio-Cortez cited her background as an organizer in the community — Sanders congratulated her on Twitter — and her work with local families.
“I live here and I knew it was possible. I knew it was long odds, I knew it was uphill, but it was my duty to just try,” she said. “This should remind us of what the Democratic Party is all about. This is a new beginning. We want to continue with what we learned and help others mount bids while rejecting corporate money.”
On hand at her victory party was Cynthia Nixon — who is hoping to pull off a similar upset against Gov. Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in September.
“She ran an amazing campaign. She really spoke to her community,” Nixon said. “If you give them the chance, they will embrace a female leader who really speaks to them. If you give them a chance, they will buck the status quo. They will elect a female leader who will really speak to them.”
Nixon wasn’t the only progressive hopeful on hand at Ocasio-Cortez’s party at Park Billiard Cafe on White Plains Road in the Bronx.
Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the last Democratic primary and is now running for attorney general, called it “a total earthquake.”
“I’m so excited thrilled and proud. This is the beginning of something huge in New York politics,” she said. “This wall wasn’t chipped, it was torn down. Everybody said it was impossible, she proved it wasn’t.”
And Jumaane Williams, running for lieutenant governor, called it “a message to the Democratic establishment who tried to silence advocates.”
“People want lip service to be backed up by action,” he said.
Another incumbent faced a tight race in Brooklyn, where Rep. Yvette Clarke edged out challenger Adem Bunkeddeko by barely 1,000 votes, with about 98% of precincts reporting.
But in Manhattan, longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney practically cruised to reelection compared with her colleagues — gaining nearly 60% of the vote to hotel executive Suraj Patel’s 41%. Patel made headlines for “Tinder banking” — having campaign volunteers put up attractive pictures on dating apps, only to plug the candidate rather than look for love with people who matched.