BY JON CRONIN
In Tuesday’s primary election, activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset the Queens Democratic machine with a stunning, double-digit victory over Queens Democratic Party party boss U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).
At Ocasio-Cortez’s victory party at Park Billiards in the Bronx, the candidate said that she knew she had a chance, but media outlets caught her wide-eyed surprised expression at the results. Ocasio-Cortez noted that it would take some time to process the excitement of her win.
While NY1 was interviewing her as the results came in, she was asked if she could put the win into words. “Nope,” she replied promptly, adding, “I cannot believe these numbers right now.”
After telling her team that it was their collective hard work that brought her to victory, Ocasio-Cortez dove into the national media frenzy covering her historic win. Until 1 a.m., she was either participating in a remote video interview on her laptop, on the phone or hugging and crying with volunteers.
Her communications director, Corbin Trent, said that Ocasio-Cortez would be back on the road at 6 a.m. to begin the media frenzy again.
On NBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday morning, she attributed her win to a campaign that had “a laser-focused message of economic, social and racial dignity for working-class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx.”
“We were very clear about our message, very clear about our priorities and very clear about the fact that even if you’ve never voted before—we are talking to you,” she said.
At the Queensboro Bar on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, Crowley conceded the race and congratulated Ocasio-Cortez. The bar was packed with campaign workers and volunteers as well as city and borough politicians who thought they were arriving to congratulate the 20-year incumbent––standing shoulder to shoulder and pouring out onto the sidewalk.
After conceding, Crowley donned an electric guitar, sang an energetic rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and dedicated it to his opponent.
Crowley greeted people at the door with handshakes and hugs as they told him they were disappointed with the results. He repeatedly told them, “It’s OK.”
Shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Crowley released the following statement, “I want to congratulate Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on her victory tonight. I look forward to supporting her and all Democrats this November. The Trump administration is a threat to everything we stand for here in Queens and the Bronx, and if we don’t win back the House this November, we will lose the nation we love. This is why we must come together.
We will only be able to stop Donald Trump and the Republican Congress by working together as a united Democratic Party.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that she respects the voice of the people in Congressional District 14.
“I served with Joe Crowley for the past 25 years in one capacity or another,” she said. “He’s a great man.”
She noted Crowley’s stance on immigrant rights and how earlier on Tuesday, he had spoken out against the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
“I think that voice will be lost,” she said.
Upon being asked what Crowley’s loss could mean for the borough, she pointed out that 48 percent of the residents in Queens are born outside of the United States and 190 languages are spoken here, and that, starting in January, she will be working with a new congresswoman.
“We will see what she can do for the borough and the other borough she represents,” Katz said.
A shocked Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oaklands Gardens) said, “I’m very sad. He’s one of the most decent people I’ve ever met in my life.”
“Every race is a threat,” he noted. “I won my primary 80-20 and I was still worried. You gotta worry. In this business, you gotta try to keep your finger on the pulse of the people.”
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who has been working with Crowley since he was first elected to the state Assembly at age 23, was amazed at the results.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I’m shocked. We have let go of a great congressman, who was climbing the ladder and now, we’re left with someone who has to start at the beginning.”
Koslowitz believes Ocasio-Cortez ran a “nasty campaign” and claims that when she was in Sunnyside on Tuesday, she saw Ocasio-Cortez’s team calling Crowley “a crook and corrupt.”
“This is not politics the way I know it. We all have run against friends and everything. This is not politics. I don’t know what it is,” Koslowtiz said.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D- Jackson Heights) echoed Koslowitz’s comments.
“It’s so sad,” he said. “Joe is a really good, decent, honest human being and I’m really sad to see this happen to him. I really don’t think we could have had a better leader in Washington.”
Dromm attributed Ocasio-Cortez’s win to a new wave of progressivism.
“Not to say that Joe isn’t progressive,” he added. “He is.”
He said that Queens is losing a powerful representative in Washington.
“We’re not going to have what Joe is able to do for us,” Dromm said. “I don’t know Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She never reached out to me. She’s got to begin to build relationships with the elected officials in the area. I hope she does. I hope she puts an end to the divisiveness of what her campaign was doing.”
Dromm claimed that he saw her campaign workers “scream and yell at people—they’re nasty. They have an attitude.” He added that it was “a battle all day long,” when he stood in front of PS 69 in Jackson Heights on primary day. Still, he looks forward to building a relationship with Ocasio-Cortez and “fighting the real enemy, which is President Trump.”
At Ocasio-Cortez’s victory party, Jake DeGroot, a Sunnyside volunteer coordinator, loudly laughed off the idea that the candidate had run a “nasty” campaign.
“I think that that’s spin. I don’t place any value in that,” he said. “That is so outrageous that it is almost not even worth responding to. We have a team of dedicated passionate volunteers from the community who love their neighbors and care so much about this campaign. I heard no reports of people being mean to anyone, to any constituents or any voters.”
He said that the only criticism the campaign received was when it had contacted someone more than once, either by phone call or knocking on their door.