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Long IslandPolitics

Joe Crowley’s loss to a political novice had local roots

Those in Washington saw the abrupt fall of Rep. Joe Crowley and sudden rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Tuesday’s 14th Congressional District primary as driven by the Trump presidency and friction within the “out” party.

For New Yorkers, Crowley’s defeat is remarkable because he has been the party chairman of Queens County for so long. Usually, people can comfortably assume a party chief will win his own primary.

Nearly 20 years ago, Crowley (D-Woodside) inherited both the seat and the chairmanship from the late Rep. Tom Manton. A key part of the 14th Congressional District is in the Bronx, outside his central Queens domain.

The district has since changed demographically, with many who are immigrants. Nearly half the residents are Latino, 18 percent are white, 11 percent black and 16 percent Asian.

So Ocasio-Cortez introduced herself at events as having a mother from Puerto Rico and father from the South Bronx.

Crowley, 56, voted liberal in the House. He was considered “establishment.” Like Hillary Clinton, whom he supported, Crowley had a measure of party influence, to the point where he was seen as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi as Democratic House caucus leader.

If anyone fit the profile of a Bernie Sanders New York millennial, it is Ocasio-Cortez, 28. She worked for Sanders’ campaign and, earlier, for Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Like Sanders, she campaigned as a supporter of Medicare for All, for example, and she calls herself a democratic socialist, and criticized Israel’s recent actions in Gaza.

She even called for ICE to be abolished. This is the left-wing equivalent of tea partyers calling for the IRS to be abolished. Neither will happen.

At this point in the cycle in 2010, an Obama backlash was in full swing, with right-wing activists raising their voices at Democrats’ town halls and some well-known Republicans falling victim to challenges from these “outsiders.”

On Tuesday, the 14th C.D. outcome bore some similarity to what happened in two Long Island House districts in which newcomers defeated well-known party veterans in Democratic primaries.

Both nominees, Perry Gershon and Liuba Grechen Shirley, must face incumbent Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford), respectively, in November.

That’s where it’s different from the 14th C.D. Both Long Island challengers face uphill fights. Trump won both their districts in 2016.

Ocasio-Cortez, however, is considered a shoo-in. In her district, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than six to one.

On Twitter, the president taunted “Trump hater” Crowley. Seeking to make it about himself, Trump said: “Perhaps he should have been nicer, and more respectful, to his President!”

Showing grace by contrast, Crowley immediately endorsed the woman who’d just defeated him.

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