In one of the largest campaign upset of the 2018 cycle, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx-born Democratic Socialist has defeated Representative Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House in New York’s Democratic primaries Tuesday night.
The Associated Press called the race around 9:50 p.m. ET with 88 percent of precincts reporting. Ocasio-Cortez was leading Crowley, by about 4,000 votes, 57.6 percent to 42.4 percent (13,365 votes to 9,856 votes).
The Bronx Democratic socialist and former campaign organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, Ocasio-Cortez ran a low-budget campaign, speeding just $200,000, compared to Crowley who spent $3.4 million. She was outspent 18-1, but made up for it with a strong social media presence and ground game, along with glowing profiles in national publications and winning the endorsement of influential national progressive groups, including Sanders-aligned Our Revolution, MoveOn.org and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
Ocasio-Cortez, who has never held any elected office, gained significant traction when a campaign video went viral late last month. She ran on the need for new representation for New York’s 14th District, the most diverse districts in the country, with the Hispanics population making up half of the district. The young progressive ran her grassroots campaign proudly on a leftist platform, including abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, universal health care and a federal jobs guarantee, as well as refusing take corporate PAC money.
“This is not an end, this is the beginning. This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it’s not OK to put donors before your community,” Ocasio-Cortez told supporters on Tuesday night. “You have given this country hope, you have given this country proof that when you knock on your neighbor’s door, when you come to them with love, when you let them know that no matter your stance, you are there for them — that we can make change.”
Crowley is the first Democratic incumbent to lose a primary this cycle. Representing New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, Crowley chairs of the House Democratic caucus as well as chairs the Queens County Democrats, . He was considered to become the next House speaker if the Democrats were to win the majority.
He served in the House since 1999 and it has been the first time in 14 years that Crowley has faced a challenger from his own party. Lack of primary challengers throughout the years showed that Crowley didn’t believe Ocasio-Cortez was a threat to his seat. During the campaign trail, Crowley missed two debates against Ocasio-Cortez, citing scheduling conflicts. The New York Times Editorial Board took notice of his no-show, warning the longtime powerful incumbent that the voters might react “by sending someone else to do the job.”
“Mr. Crowley is far from the first candidate to decline to debate a challenger he is heavily favored to beat. But as a longtime incumbent with a powerful role as a party leader, he should relish, not shirk, a chance to make his case to voters,” The New York Times Editorial Board wrote last week. “Mr. Crowley has decades of experience that can serve his constituents well in Congress. But his seat is not his entitlement. He’d better hope that voters don’t react to his snubs by sending someone else to do the job.”
Conceding shortly after the race was called, Crowley congratulated Ocasio-Cortez on her victory, but took a major jab at President Trump.
“The Trump administration is a threat to everything we stand for here in Queens and the Bronx, and if we don’t win back the House this November, we will lose the nation we love,” Crowley said in a statement. “This is why we must come together. We will only be able to stop Donald Trump and the Republican Congress by working together, as a united Democratic Party.”
I want to congratulate @Ocasio2018. I look forward to supporting her and all Democrats this November. The Trump administration is a threat to everything we stand for here in Queens and the Bronx, and if we don’t win back the House this November, we will lose the nation we love.
— Joe Crowley (@JoeCrowleyNY) June 27, 2018
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement acknowledged the work that Representative Crowley had done for the Democratic party. However, at the end of the statement she gave a one line congratulations to Ocasio-Cortez on her victory.
“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,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday night. “I salute Chairman Crowley for a formidable legacy of achievement for the people of New York. I congratulate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her victory.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders also congratulated her on her “extraordinary upset.”
Congratulations to @Ocasio2018 on her extraordinary upset victory tonight! She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory. She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 27, 2018
President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter of the shocking defeat, calling Crowley a “Big Trump Hater Congressman.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2018
The National Republican Campaign Committee celebrated the defeat of “poor Joe Crowley.”
“Democrats have spent millions rigging primaries across the country, but couldn’t spare a dime for poor Joe Crowlet tonight,” NRCC Communication Director Matt Gorman said in a statement. “House Democrats, hoping for a post-Pelsoi era, are now left leaderless. The only person happier tonight than Nancy Pelosi is the NRCC.”
Political observers have likened Ocasio-Cortez’s upset to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) unexpected primary loss in 2014 to now-Rep. Dave Brat. His defeat marks a potential sea change and a clear message that the party is sick of the older top establishment figures.
Ocasio-Cortez victory also made history as the first woman in her twenties to be elected to Congress.