In one of the most stunning political upsets in recent memory, underdog candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's 14th Congressional District primary on Tuesday night. The district, which spans parts of the Bronx and Queens, was one of five contested federal primary races in New York City (see the full results here).
Ocasio-Cortez, 28, is a former campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders and a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who campaigned on a platform of universal health care, abolishing ICE, and a federal jobs guarantee. She defeated Crowley by a whopping 15 percent of the vote, capturing 16,000 of just under 28,000 votes.
The current chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, Crowley, 56, was widely considered a potential successor to current speaker Nancy Pelosi. He served as a member of Congress for two decades, and outspent Ocasio-Cortez—his first primary challenger since 2004—by an 18-1 margin.
But while Crowley has long been a political kingmaker in Queens, he was roundly criticized for sending a surrogate to a primary debate against Ocasio-Cortez, and was hammered over his ties to Wall Street. In a viral campaign ad, Ocasio-Cortez called her opponent "a democrat that takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn't live here, doesn't send his kids to our schools."
Challenger @Ocasio2018 toppled one of the top Democrats in Congress, @repjoecrowley, Tuesday night in their primary in the 14th District. The victory stunned even her, live on our channel. #NY1Politics https://t.co/fnK1O0bacz pic.twitter.com/RjuqHJpn1p
— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) June 27, 2018
This is the start of a movement.
Thank you all.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) June 27, 2018
She hit on that theme again during her victory party at Park Billiards in the Bronx on Tuesday night, telling ecstatic supporters, "This is not an end, this is the beginning. This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it's not OK to put donors before your community." After criticizing democrats who accepted corporate PAC money, Ocasio-Cortez managed to raise $300,709, most of it from small donors in and around her district.
Over at the Queensboro Bar in Jackson Heights, Crowley conceded defeat by picking up a guitar and performing a rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" to the new representative.
— David Freedlander (@freedlander) June 27, 2018
A source close to the Crowley campaign who spoke to Politico on Tuesday night called the results "a bloodletting of Washington Democrats."
"It's just that he personifies the institution, he is the institution, and this is an anti-establishment movement right now," the campaign insider added.
That definitely appeared to be the case last night, at least on the Democrats side. While Crowley was the only incumbent in New York to lose, Rep. Yvette Clarke eked out a victory against her 30-year-old challenger by just 1,000 votes, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney managed to hold on to her seat by a slim 10 percentage points. On the Republican side, Rep. Dan Donovan easily beat felonious challenger Michael Grimm, who observed during his concession speech last night, "I guess the president's endorsement meant more than I thought."
President Trump weighed in on Ocasio-Cortez's surprise victory, tweeting that "Perhaps [Crowley] should've been nicer, and more respectful, to his President!" Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., meanwhile, was one of the few Democrats to publicly lament the results, noting that it's "unfortunate that [Crowley] had a primary" because "Washington is about consistency and seniority."
It seems likely that Crowley's primary loss—the first for a Democrat incumbent in 2018—will have far-reaching consequences in Congress, possibly pushing establishment democrats to the left, or creating more tension with the party's insurgent progressive movement. And last night's results could have dramatic implications for New York's state primary in September. The Times predicts, "Ocasio-Cortez’s triumph will deliver an injection of money and energy into Cynthia Nixon’s challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, offering her the sort of momentum going into the September primary that she might not have had were it not for the state’s bifurcated nominating process."
"I can not believe these numbers right now," she told NY1 in an interview on Tuesday night. "But I do know that every single person here has worked their butts off to change the future of the Bronx and Queens, and that this victory belongs to every single grassroots organizer, every working parent, every mom, every member of the LGBTQ community, every single person is responsible for this."
While Ocasio-Cortez hasn't won her Congressional seat yet—she'll face Republican candidate Anthony Pappas in November, in a race she's widely expected to win—supporters online were quick to celebrate the decisive victory:
— People For Bernie (@People4Bernie) June 27, 2018
I’ve never canvassed for a politician in my LIFE but all day today I told the voters in Queens that a socialist could win and she did it!! #Ocasio2018 🌹
— Sarah Nicole Prickett (@sylvia__north) June 27, 2018
— 🚧FUZZ FUZZ NO FUZZ🚧 (@corecorecorelrr) June 27, 2018
This photo is from Nov. 14, 2017. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, was then working as a bartender.
Less than a year later, she defeated the likely next Speaker of the House, and will almost certainly be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress pic.twitter.com/JgHjdQWAF6
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) June 27, 2018
After today’s primary 28 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) is almost certain to become the first member of a socialist organization to be elected to Congress in 90 years and the 4th open socialist ever elected to Congress in US history. Fuck Joe McCarthy we’re back https://t.co/EElpMIvZqY
— 🔺Chance🔻 (@ComradeSnorlax) June 27, 2018
Ocasio-Cortez on socialism: "There is no other force, there is no other party, there is no other real ideology out there right now that is asserting the minimum elements necessary to lead a dignified American life." https://t.co/3Ex5JUmGCu https://t.co/uU1SbCCH5Y
— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) June 27, 2018
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was one of the first candidates to support abolishing ICE. She led on the issue. Simple clear moral demands and tirelesss organizing wins elections.
— overton window mover (@SeanMcElwee) June 27, 2018
— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) June 27, 2018