Retired insurance executive Marty Dolan to challenge AOC in June primary

marty dolan
Marty Dolan announced he will be challenging U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in June 2024.
Photo courtesy of Rick Lash for the Dolan campaign

Marty Dolan, 66, who describes himself as “from Main Street and Wall Street,” announced earlier this month that he will be challenging U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic primary in June.

Dolan faces an uphill battle in his quest to represent the 14th Congressional District of 700,000 people living in the Queens neighborhoods of Astoria, East Elmhurst and part of Jackson Heights, as well as the east Bronx neighborhoods of Hunts Point, Co-Op City, Throggs Neck and Parkchester.

Ocasio-Cortez won the 2022 general election with nearly 70% of the vote and is one of the country’s most prominent elected officials. But she has not faced a primary challenger since 2020 — and Dolan believes the time is right. 

In an interview with the Bronx Times, Dolan said he will use the next three months to get his name out among CD-14 voters, many of whom he believes are fed up with progressive leadership. He argues progressives have made the city worse — not better — in terms of addressing social ills.

On his campaign website, he lists the impacts in New York City of what he called “radical” Democratic policies: “bail reform a disaster, the National Guard in the subway, toothpaste locked up in drugstores but criminals running free, scarce resources directed to (non-sanctuary) immigrants coming from all over the world.” 

Dolan has cast himself as a clear alternative to liberal incumbents such as Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman. He originally set out to challenge Bowman in the CD-16 race but switched to challenge Ocasio-Cortez in CD-14. The Bronx Times has reached out to Ocasio-Cortez’s office for comment. 

“All I ever cared about was helping people,” said Dolan. 

Dolan, in front wearing shorts, in a family photo. Photo courtesy Marty Dolan

Dolan grew up on a literal Main Street in the small Westchester County village of Irvington in a “Irish Catholic Latin American” family. His father, originally from Argentina, immigrated to the United States by steamboat. 

Dolan’s father, a doctor, mainly tended to other immigrants who worked in a General Motors factory, and his mother was a nurse. They had 10 children in 12 years. 

Dolan went to Union College — supporting himself with bartending and other odd jobs — and then to Harvard Business School, which landed him a “starter job” running information between desks at a Wall Street firm. 

He spent 25 years on Wall Street in the risk insurance sector, which he called “the world’s safety net.” Dolan said that when disasters happened — from the 9/11 attacks to natural disasters — his job was to wrangle money and bring it to where the problem was.

While Dolan’s career took him all over the world, he said he was never away from New York City for long. He said he’s currently looking for a permanent place to live in Queens or the Bronx.

Dolan said that he has a perspective on how other major cities operate, something he argues is critical to his candidacy. “It’s advantageous that I worked around the world because I can look at the United States and say, ‘What’s different?’” he said.

‘Exporting taxpayers and importing immigrants’

Contrary to the Wall Street image, Dolan said his ideas — especially on taxation — are both provocative and progressive. 

He credits Alexander Hamilton, whom he called on his website “one of the greatest New Yorkers,” for his vision of a more equal United States that “act[s] as one country.”

In Dolan’s view, income inequality is a huge problem in New York and across the U.S. — and tax policy, set by the states, is to blame. 

At least in New York, Dolan said, “The taxes are too damn high.”

He cited wildly varied income tax rates — which can reach 14% for residents of New York City but zero in Florida — as a reason why people are fleeing the state, leading to diminished services and conditions for those who remain. 

Dolan said it’s not the extremely wealthy who are leaving but “the ‘backbone of the city’ people” whose households earn $100,000-$200,000 per year. 

He proposes moving pension and Medicare costs to the federal government instead of the state, which he said would decrease taxes by 25% to 30% in New York. 

But beyond tax disparities, Dolan said another problem is that New York is “exporting taxpayers and importing immigrants, who cost money.”

Dolan said immigrants are “taking benefits from the people in the city who need them” — and he believes there are many constituents who are fed up with Ocasio-Cortez and fellow liberals who have not addressed the problem.

Photo courtesy Marty Dolan

‘Campaign of the people’

“The June primary is a chance for people to vote on the future of New York,” he said, adding that he has talked with constituents who are eager for change. “I think we’re gonna have a great turnout.”

Dolan said he is heavily involved in his campaign and that he and his team will canvas all over the district.

“We’re gonna run a campaign of the people,” he said — and by contrast, Dolan called Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign “wasteful” — especially in light of the nearly 20% poverty rate in CD-14. 

According to Federal Election Commission records, the Ocasio-Cortez campaign has nearly $6 million cash on hand, whereas Dolan has $34,925. Records also show that he has put up $55,000 in loans to his own campaign and has only raised a few thousand in contributions.

But “people react to the truth,” Dolan said, and a big budget campaign won’t help. In the end, “it’s up to the voters to do their homework.” 

Reach Emily Swanson at eswanson@schnepsmedia.com or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes