U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) is taking heat from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party after declining to take measures to remove himself from their line on the ballot in the November general election.
Initially endorsed and added to the ballot under the WFP nomination, the third party is now putting its full support behind Ocasio-Cortez, who was launched onto the national stage after beating Crowley, a 20-year veteran, in the June 26 Democratic primary. Crowley was considered a frontrunner to become House majority leader if the Democrats retook control in November.
The WFP is trying to persuade Crowley to remove himself from the ballot by asking him to change his residency to Virginia where he keeps a home and sends his children to school, especially since Crowley has been a vocal supporter of Ocasio-Cortez, as he publicly promised prior to his stunning upset.
“Lots [of] questions about WFP line. Was honored to have their support. I’m not running. For [the] record you can only be removed from the ballot if 1) you move out of NY; 2) die; 3) be convicted of a crime; 4) accept a nomination for another office (in a place I don’t live),” Crowley said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I don’t plan on moving out of New York, have a clean record, hope God’s will is that I don’t die, and won’t commit what I honestly believe to be election fraud.”
After the race was called in favor of Ocasio-Cortez on Election Night, Crowley said he would put Democratic unity above all else to oppose the Trump administration and support his former opponent, who walked away with 57 percent of the vote.
“You’d think that given the moment we’re in that Democratic leaders would want to help progressive forces to unite,” Bill Lipton, state director of the Working Families Party, told the New York Times, adding that when he reached out to the Crowley campaign to coordinate removing Crowley from the ballot, they declined.
Crowley, in a NY1 debate just weeks prior to his defeat, said he would pledge his full support for Ocasio-Cortez if she won and asked that she do the same, but Ocasio-Cortez said that would have to be taken into more consideration.
At a later debate in Jackson Heights, Ocasio-Cortez gave the same response when Crowley followed up asking for her support in the event of his victory.
Ocasio-Cortez held Crowley to his word despite her unwillingness to reciprocate the gesture of support.
“[Crowley] stated on live TV that he would absolutely support my candidacy,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a Twitter post on July 12. “Instead, he’s stood me up for all 3 scheduled concession calls. Now, he’s mounting a 3rd party challenge against me and the Democratic Party- and against the will of [the WFP].”
The Queens Democratic Party boss said it was not his camp that failed to follow through on the concession calls, but the Ocasio 2018 staff.
“Alexandria, the race is over and Democrats need to come together,” Crowley responded. “I’ve made my support for you clear and the fact that I’m not running. We’ve scheduled phone calls and your team has not followed through. I’d like to connect but I’m not willing to air grievances on Twitter.”
But Ocasio-Cortez has not impressed many Democrats in the House with her stance on Crowley vacating the WFP line.
U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, followed many other Democrats in his criticism.
“When it comes to courtesy and decency, and especially the way — the class way — in which Joe Crowley has conducted himself and every overture that he’s made, I think she would be wise to rethink some of the things that she’s saying,” Larson told The Hill.
At this point, it would seem Ocasio-Cortez is bound to face Crowley again in the general election alongside Republican Anthony Pappas, a St. John’s University professor.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall