Election season sees incumbents fall as Queens County Democratic Party’s power begins to wane

Election season sees incumbents fall as Queens County Democratic Party’s power begins to wane
The defeat of state Assemblywoman Ari Espinal in Thursday’s primary election could be a sign to some that the influence of Joseph Crowley’s Queens political machine has been lifted.
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

Voters across the borough followed suit on a trend that indicates the waning influence of the Queens County Democratic Party under the leadership of outgoing U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) by voting against state Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights).

Espinal took office in an April special election to replace Francisco Moya who was elected to City Council and will have just a short run in Albany after attorney and activist Catalina Cruz defeated her by 7,000 votes in the Sept. 13 primary.

Espinal is the latest in a line of Queens County Democratic Party picks to suffer defeats from insurgent Democrats. The trend is preceded by the loss of Elizabeth Crowley in the City Council to now-City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village) as well as Margaret Markey, who had served for decades before state Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) defeated her in 2016.

State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) was optimistic about the political future across the state as Jackson Heights activist Jessica Ramos defeated state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), a former member the controversial Independent Democratic Conference, something she said indicated that New York was closer to becoming a truly progressive stronghold.

“Victories from last week’s state primary elections reflect the shift in local politics that has been building for quite some time,” Rozic said. “Voters want representation in state government that hasn’t always reflected the diversity of their communities… What we witnessed is proof that when progressive candidates launch community driven campaigns, they will win.”

Crowley, the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, even fell victim to an insurgent challenger in June, when 28-year-old Bronxite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled ahead of him in the congressional Democratic primary and earned her spot as the nominee going into the Nov. 6 general election.

But it will not be the last Queens residents have seen of Crowley, currently the fourth-ranking Democrat in Congress, who was rumored to be in line to replace Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader until his defeat.

Crowley was re-elected as chair of the county party Monday morning, despite pressure from Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party for him to change his residency to Virginia, where he keeps a home.

“It’s an honor to be re-elected chairman, and I’m humbled by my colleagues’ faith in my leadership,” Crowley said. “Together, we will ensure our borough’s values and diversity is reflected in the work we commit ourselves to every day. I look forward to reaching across the Queens community to elect progressive leaders up and down the ballot who will advance policies that lift up working families both here in New York and across the country.”

The intense 2018 election season has claimed a number of incumbents, including six of the eight former IDC members, and has seen a whirlwind of conflict within the Democratic Party.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall[email protected]glocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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