Socialist Activist Stuns Democratic Establishment In New York Primary Win
No one saw her coming, but by the end of Tuesday night, the virtually unknown socialist activist who worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders' Presidential Campaign and once worked as a staffer for the late Senator Ted Kennedy took down one of the more powerful Democrats in the United States House of Representatives.
28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated Joe Crowley in New York's 14th Congressional District Democratic Primary by running on a very leftist platform which includes abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, free public college for all, Medicare for all, a universal jobs guarantee, etc. Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, defeated a Democrat many expected to become the next Speaker of the House should the Democrats win back control of it.
Crowley has been the district's Representatives for about 20 years, and has not had a primary challenger since 2004. The district, which is mostly Queens and the Bronx boroughs in New York City is a "deep blue" district, which means that Ocasio-Cortez will most likely win and become the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House.
NPR reports that about 50% of the residents in New York's 14th District are immigrants. Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York in 1989 to a Puerto Rican mother and a small business owner from the Bronx. Little has been reported about who her father was, she has said that he father died suddenly at the age of 48 in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis while she was in college, and that as her family battled the local court system over her father's estate because he had no will, she was forced to work multiple jobs to help her family get by.
At the same time, Crowley was in his eighth year in Congress after serving more than a decade in the New York state legislature. He is known to dominate the political machine that runs out of Queens, and is the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus there. The Intercept reports that three attorneys who work for Crowley control the Queens Democratic Party, which is known as one of the most powerful political machines in the country.
For decades, they have decided who gets on the ballot to elect judges and target any opponents by keeping them off the ballot by enforcing "arcane election laws, which are then adjudicated by judges who themselves came up through the machine." One of those courts reportedly riddled with the machine's corruption is the Westchester Surrogate Court, which battled Ocasio-Cortez's family over her father's estate for years.
The New York Times reported in 2011 that the surrogate court, also known as the "orphans and widows court", appoints guardians to represent the families of Queens residents who die without wills. Those guardians reportedly made substantial profits, taking fees from the estates for decades. The New York Daily News reports that the office of one of those three attorneys working for Crowley, Gerard Sweeney, made approximately $30 million between 2006 and 2017. Another attorney under Crowley made half a million dollars.
The Democratic corruption under Crowley also reportedly extended to valuable real estate deals. Ocasio-Cortez says that while her family fought and worked to save the family home, bankers literally circled them like sharks, taking pictures of the property if they were ever able to foreclose.
While Ocasio-Cortez's family struggled, Crowley voted against tough restrictions against the banks that caused the financial crisis. He faced an ethics probe for taking money from their lobbyists just before switching his vote. The local media noted that Crowley's campaign financing had switched from unions to Wall Street cash.
Between the political machine Crowley ran out of Queens and the fallout of the financial crash that crushed families like hers, Ocasio-Cortez says she eventually turned to politics, volunteering with the Sanders Campaign two years ago.
She was apparently able to win by targeting voters in the Bronx who felt under-served by Crowley, who is known as the "King of Queens". While the political power he accumulated to put him in line to possibly become the next Speaker of the House, voters in his district likely felt that his dedication to Wall Street meant they would get no benefit from the distinction of being represented by the title.
Ocasio-Cortez will also represent the racial diversity of the district for the first time. Crowley was a hand-picked successor to the previous Congressman who retired late in his final campaign in 1998, and Crowley has only been challenged a couple of times.
While the young woman from the Bronx has little political experience, she does represent a shift in the national Democratic Party, which has clung to experienced establishment politicians for several decades. While most of the mainstream national media calls her a "progressive activist", she is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (which sprang from the Socialist Party of America), and she openly supports far left policies like open borders, abolishing ICE, guaranteed jobs and housing for all, gun control, ending private prisons, etc.
Ocasio-Cortez told Newsweek that she feels a kinship with Cynthia Nixon, the actress and former "Sex and the City" star who has also called for ending ICE.
By all indications, a far-left Socialist platform of ideas will not win most of America, but Ocasio-Cortez's win Tuesday night is one of many indications that Democrat voters are finally fed up with the establishment candidates who they believe have not served them for many years.