Wednesday, June 27, 2018
The message 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered in a web video last month may not have been specifically about federal issues, but it went viral and struck a chord in the diverse New York City district where she beat 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
"After 20 years of the same representation, we have to ask: Who has New York been changing for?" Ocasio-Cortez said as Crowley was shown on the screen.
"Every day gets harder for working families like mine to get by. The rent gets higher, health care covers less, and our income stays the same. It's clear that these changes haven't been for us, and we deserve a champion," she said.
It's not that Crowley, 56, had ever been considered a conservative. He was potentially in line to succeed California Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the Democrats' leader next term, and in a tweet gloating about Crowley's loss, President Donald Trump called him a "Big Trump Hater." But in a climate where some liberals want Democrats to use every tactic available to resist Trump – and were angered they agreed to end a government shutdown in January without ensuring protection for young undocumented immigrants – Crowley, as the No. 4 Democratic leader in the House, was painted as part of the establishment.
Ocasio-Cortez ran on a platform promising paid family leave, Medicare for All, a universal government jobs guarantee, justice reform to "demilitarize our police," and abolishing ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. "I was the only candidate in the race that did not take corporate money in a time when economic marginalization is really increasing in New York City," Ocasio-Cortez said Wednesday on the program "CBS This Morning." "So I think that created a lot of trust in our community and our message really inspired a lot of folks that don't usually turn out in an off-year midterm primary."
Though Ocasio-Cortez had been an organizer on Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, it was her first run for office. Many of her campaign workers were also new to the process, inspired by Trump to get involved through grass-roots organizing efforts such as the Indivisible Project.
"They were new to the political system, and that mindset is really important to this moment. The knocked on doors, they made phone calls. They reached out to people who are often dismissed as infrequent voters," said Ezra Levin, co-executive director of the Indivisible Project.
The district also changed since 1998, when Crowley was first tapped by his predecessor to run for the seat. Back then, the 14th District was 28 percent Hispanic, according to the Almanac of American Politics. Under the lines drawn after the 2010 Census, that figure was more than 50 percent. More than 45 percent of the district is also younger than 35, and Ocasio-Cortez, if she wins in November, would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. "The future of the Democratic Party isn't old white men, it's people of color, it's youth," Levin said. Republican campaign operatives seized on Ocasio-Cortez's support for government health insurance and job guarantees, and her call for eliminating immigration enforcement, as a way to motivate their own supporters.
"If there was any doubt that their party has moved drastically to the left, Democrats just elected a self-avowed socialist over the current chair of the House Democratic Caucus," Michael Ahrens, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in an email Tuesday night. "Just wait until 2020."
Crowley not only became the highest-ranking House member to lose a primary since Republicans rejected Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in 2014, he was also the first Democrat to be turned aside in this election cycle. But Crowley had not faced a primary in more than a decade, so having to turn out his base was not as routine as it is for some other politicians.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said he asked Crowley at a Mets game in Queens two weeks ago if he might need any help, since Crowley had helped others in the region in the past.
"He thought that he had handle on the election, that he knew what he had to do," Pascrell said. "He knew there were changing demographics, but he felt he had compensated for that. I believed him."
Pascrell said he was surprised at how low the turnout was. Unofficial returns tallied by The Associated Press showed that with 98 percent of precincts counted, Ocasio-Cortez had 15,897 votes to Crowley's 11,761 "There's a lot of angry people, angry with both Republicans and Democrats, and a lot of first-time voters who voted in the 14th District. I think that had a lot to do with this." Pascrell rejected the suggestion Crowley wasn't doing his job for the district, and rejected the suggestion Crowley had surrendered in January when Democrats agreed to help reopen the government without getting a vote on protecting young immigrants.
"Joe fought harder than anybody I know in the New York or New Jersey delegation. That's a bad rap," Pascrell said. But Pascrell said Ocasio-Cortez worked hard for the win.
"Any career can be ended on a random Tuesday night," Pascrell said, praising the way Crowley congratulated Ocasio-Cortez and said he hoped for her victory in the fall.
Disclosures with the Federal Election Commission show that through June 6, Crowley spent $3.4 million, including nearly $1 million since the beginning of May, with $840,000 going for advertising, direct mail and polling.
Ocasio-Cortez, who touted her refusal to accept contributions from corporate political action committees, raised $310,000 and spent $207,000 through June 6.
A large portion of her fundraising came in the final weeks before the election, with about $234,000 raised from April 1 through June 6.
She had a few celebrity donors, most notably actress and producer Susan Sarandon and the husband-wife television writing team of Neal Marlens and Carol Black, whose credits include "Growing Pains" and "The Wonder Years."
The victory, in a New York district primary election to determine who stands against the Republicans in November’s midterms for a seat in Congress, immediately prompted debate about the wider ramifications for the Democrats, and whether it heralds a further move to the left.
Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer for Bernie Sanders. She would be the youngest female member of Congress in history if she wins as expected in November.
She won by a margin of 57.5%- 42.5% over Crowley in a majority minority district that included parts of Queens and the Bronx.
In the election – one of several primary victories by progressives – Ocasio-Cortez won 57.5% of the vote and Crowley had 42.5%. The district includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.
When the result was called, a visibly shocked Ocasio-Cortez clasped her hands to her mouth. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” she repeated. She then said: “We meet a machine with a movement, and that is what we have done today … working-class Americans want a clear champion and there is nothing radical about moral clarity in 2018.”
Crowley, head of the Queens county Democratic party and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, was widely rumored to have ambitions to succeed Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader in the House when the California Democrat stepped down. He had raised over $3m for his campaign, 10 times the amount raised by Ocasio-Cortez.
He had expressed confidence about the race in private conversations and as one national Democratic strategist told the Guardian: “The Crowley team did not raise red flags or ask allies for help with his primary.” Prior to 2018, Crowley had not even faced a primary since 2004, years before his 28-year-old opponent was even eligible to vote.
The upset was compared by observers to the shock defeat of Eric Cantor, the number two House Republican, to a Tea Party candidate, David Brat, in 2014. Cantor’s defeat stopped any momentum for Republicans in Congress on immigration reform. It also helped to create the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and drive out the former speaker John Boehner.
Pelosi, who is under pressure to step aside and pave the way for a new generation, insisted the win for the left of the party was not representative of a wider trend.
Pelosi said: “They made a choice in one district. The fact that in a very progressive district in New York, it went more progressive … is about that district. It is not to be viewed as something that stands for anything else.”
Asked if Democratic leadership should be more reflective of a party that is increasingly diverse, progressive and young, Pelosi replied: “I’m female, I’m progressive – so what’s your problem? Two out of three ain’t bad.”
Ocasio-Cortez ran on an unapologetically left wing platform that included a federal jobs guarantee program and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for border enforcement. The Puerto Rican American also benefited from the changing demographics of a district with a growing Hispanic population and attacked Crowley for his ties to Wall Street, accusing him of being out of touch with his increasingly diverse district.
She ran on a platform of universal healthcare, a federal jobs guarantee program and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the agency responsible for border enforcement. Like Sanders, she shunned corporate donations and attacked her opponent’s ties to Wall Street, accusing him of being out of touch with his increasingly diverse district.
“I think a lot of working-class Americans and voters here have been waiting for an unapologetic champion for economic, social and racial dignity in the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez told CBS. “And we provided a very direct message, a very clear message.”
Speaking in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Donald Trump weighed in on the result, taking shots at the Democratic incumbent: “For Crowley to lose that election was a shocker. I was surprised.” Trump added: “I think he probably took it for granted. I can’t say that I’m disappointed because I was never a big fan. But he lost his election, he probably shouldn’t have lost his election.”
Victories for progressives
In Maryland, Ben Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, won the Democratic primary for governor against the Prince George’s county executive, Rushern Baker. Jealous ran as an ardent liberal and touted national supporters such as Bernie Sanders as he called for free college tuition and marijuana legalization. Baker ran as a mainstream Democrat with a host of local establishment endorsements. Jealous will face the incumbent Republican Larry Hogan in November.
In Colorado, congressman Jared Polis won the primary for governor. Polis ran on a leftwing platform, including single-payer healthcare. He will face off against the Republican Walker Stapleton, a member of the Bush political dynasty, in November.
Two Republican candidates endorsed by Donald Trump also held off primary challengers Tuesday night.
On Staten Island, the former congressman Michael Grimm failed in his comeback attempt against the incumbent Dan Donovan. Donovan, a comparative moderate, received Trump’s endorsement as part of an effort by Republicans to keep themselves from making a seat that Obama won in 2012 even more vulnerable in the midterms.
In South Carolina, just one day after Donald Trump appeared on his behalf at a raucous rally, Governor Henry McMaster pulled off a narrow victory against the businessman John Warren in the runoff for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
McMaster will face the Democratic state representative James Smith in the November election.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday sought help from the police for producing Shehbaz Sharif before NAB Lahore in the Saaf Paani case, a private TV channel reported.
Shehbaz has been summoned on July 5 to appear before the accountability watchdog. NAB reached out to the Lahore capital city police officer and directed the relevant authorities to ensure that Shehbaz appears before the bureau. NAB will also direct the SHO concerned to submit a report of the notice served to Shehbaz. The report will be submitted before July 4 with details of Shehbaz’s appearance and delivery of notice. The notice will be sent to Shehbaz’s official address in Model Town.
On Monday NAB arrested Engineer Qamarul Islam Raja – former chairman of Punjab government’s Saaf Pani Company – for his alleged role in awarding contracts to ‘favourites’. He is also the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) pick in the general elections against the party’s disgruntled leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from Rawalpindi’s NA-59 constituency. Interestingly, the arrest took place within 24 hours of Raja’s nomination as the PML-N candidate for NA-59 and the PP-10 constituencies of Rawalpindi.
Meanwhile, PML-N’s former finance minister Miftah Ismail has been summoned by NAB Karachi on July 5. Senator Rubina Khalid was summoned on Wednesday at NAB Rawalpindi. The bureau has authorised complaint verification against Senator Rana Mehmoodul Hassan for having accumulated assets beyond known sources of income.