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Crowley’s primary defeat sends shockwaves through Queens Democrats

The political dynamic in Queens is up in the air as electeds are still reeling from the defeat of Joseph Crowley, Queens County Democratic boss, at the hands of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

The cataclysmic defeat of Queens County political boss and powerful Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) in the Democratic primary has left a question mark above heads across the borough.

But after the head of the Democratic Caucus in the House was vanquished by 28-year-old newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez June 26, some politicians are already stepping away from the mandates of Democratic county and state leadership.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) ignored a peace agreement between mainline Democrats and former members of the Independent Democratic Committee, a breakaway group within the state Senate that negotiated with the GOP majority to pass legislation, and endorsed Jessica Ramos, who is the primary opponent of former IDC member Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).

“We can all agree that we are living in a time when people are hungry for change from our leaders, whether in Washington, D.C., or in Albany. The status quo isn’t working—and that is why I am here today supporting four amazing candidates who will shake things up in Albany. I am so proud to endorse these four inspiring, exciting, hard-working grassroots candidates for state Senate,” Johnson said on the steps of City Hall June 28. “They are Democrats. They are progressive Democrats. They will caucus with the Democrats. They will support all the issues that Democrats support.”

Johnson received an endorsement from Crowley during the race for speaker, though he denied Crowley’s downfall played into his decision to break from the party reunification deal and endorse four candidates challenging former IDC members, according to the New York Daily News.

He said the endorsements, just two days after the Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, had been under discussion for months and he had finally decided to include all four members.

In April Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a peace deal between the party and the IDC, pledging that if the breakaway Dems dissolved their committee, they would not face primary challenges.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was part of the IDC, but Johnson ignored his Democratic rival, John Duane.

Peralta, however, faces a challenge despite this.

Ramos said during the June 28 endorsement she hoped to tackle an issue she claims has been ignored by the incumbent: rent reform.

“I am most excited to get to work with [Johnson] and the City Council on rent reform because the speaker has championed this issue for a very long time. Hundreds of people in my district are hurting because of MCI fees, because of landlords taking advantage of loopholes, and because of evictions. It is no secret that Albany has stood in the way of real progressive reform that we need here in New York City — time and time again,” Ramos said.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), a supporter of Crowley, tried to warn the party boss of the lurking threat posed by Ocasio-Cortez.

“They didn’t know how to use social media and they didn’t understand the depth of anger at the Trump administration,” Dromm told the New York Post. “Don’t forget, it’s a heavily immigrant community and Trump is targeting immigrants.”

But we may not have seen the last days of Crowley’s political power in Queens.

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) told the New York Post he was confident Crowley would be re-elected as Queens County Democratic Party chair come September.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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