The progressive wing of the Democratic Party scored its first upset of this year’s primary season on Tuesday night, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-time candidate and former Bernie Sanders organizer, easily defeated Rep. Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary in Queens, New York. Crowley is the first incumbent Democrat to lose in a primary this year.
The results will stun Crowley’s colleagues in New York and Washington, where he had risen to the fourth-ranking post in the House Democratic leadership and was positioning himself as a front-runner to succeed Nancy Pelosi as leader. In Queens, Crowley was the undisputed boss of the county party, presiding over a vast patronage machine that gave him immense power over local politics. He was considered one of the top fundraisers in the House, raking in millions of dollars from New York’s financial industry and from corporate PACs.
But the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez wielded all that power against him. She pointed to Crowley’s residence in D.C. and his long list of corporate donors as evidence that he was out of touch with the working-class district, which includes a diverse swath of Queens and the Bronx and is nearly 50 percent Latino.
Ocasio-Cortez staked out policy positions well to the left of Crowley and said Democrats in safe seats like his needed to be doing more to pull the party to the left. She pressed the point with a relentless campaign schedule and a viral video that attracted praise from liberals online and helped her raise more than $300,000 for the campaign. Still, Crowley had raised more than $3 million dollars for what was supposed to be an easy race, and he appeared generally unconcerned with her campaign until the final days.
By then, it was too late.
At a campaign party after the race was called, Crowley—who has always enjoyed playing guitar at his campaign events—dedicated a rendition of “Born to Run” to Ocasio-Cortez and her victory.