As the 116th Congress was convening in Washington, with Democrats returning to the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, outgoing Congressman Joseph Crowley found himself thousands of miles away from Capitol Hill this week.
“I’m in Montana, celebrating the holidays with my wife Kasey’s in-laws,” Crowley said in a phone interview on Dec. 31. “I have no plans to go back to Washington and I said my goodbyes last week.”
Crowley’s 20-year career in Congress came to a stunning end in June when the fourth-highest ranking Democrat in the House lost his first primary challenge to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in June.
“This loss is on me,” Crowley told the Washington Post afterward — and he wasn’t looking back from Montana on New Year’s Eve.
“I reached a pretty high level and accomplished quite a bit,” Crowley said. “I’m relatively young at 56, compared to the average age in Congress at 58. I have no plans right now. I’m just moving on to the next phase of my life. I don’t know if I’m done with elected politics yet. We’ll just see what unfolds.”
Born and raised in Woodside, where he still keeps a residence, Crowley was first elected to Congress in 1998. In 2017, he rose to become chairman of the Democratic Caucus and was seen as a potential candidate for Speaker of the House.
“I had a great career and representing the people of western Queens and the Bronx was the honor of a lifetime,” Crowley said. “I am proud of my legacy and my record, and not just in Congress; I also served in the state Assembly for 12 years.”
In September, Crowley was re-elected as chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, a seat he has held since 2006. As party boss, Crowley holds a great deal of influence in the selection of Democratic candidate, both political and judicial.
“At least for the foreseeable future, that will keep me engaged on the homefront and being out of Washington will give me more time to focus on the party,” Crowley said. “We’ve done a good job diversifying the party and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the years both with political offices and judgeships.”
Until he decides his next move, and whether he returns to elected politics, Crowley will be enjoying more time with his family.
“I have a lot to be grateful for,” he said. “I have one of my sons in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, a daughter in high school and my other son in elementary school.”
Crowley has seen his successor struggle a bit during her first days on Capitol Hill; incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi dashed Ocasio-Cortez’s push for a Green New Deal Committee this week in favor of a Climate Crisis Committee lacking subpoena power.
“My advice is to realize the House is a collaborative body and you need to work together to achieve goals,” Crowley said. “Nothing ever happens overnight. Nothing. I would give that advice to her and I would give that advice to any members of the freshman class in Congress.”