Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, a top-ranking Democrat and a rising star in the party, lost in a stunning upset Tuesday to a little-known primary challenger, sending shock waves through the party out of power less than five months before the midterm elections.
With more than 80 percent of the vote tallied, the Associated Press projected that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old activist, would defeat the fourth-ranking House Democrat. Crowley became just the third sitting member of Congress, and the first Democratic incumbent, to lose in a primary this year.
The House Democratic Caucus chairman was widely seen as a potential successor to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In a party already struggling with generational conflict, his defeat will set off a scramble in leadership as Democrats seek to gain control of the House in November.
The result marked the first knock-out blow against the establishment wing of the Democratic Party by the restive liberal movement that has erupted in the era of Donald Trump. Until Tuesday, Democrats had mostly rejected candidates like Ocasio-Cortez in favor of more mainstream alternatives. In scores of crowded House primaries across the country, Democratic voters had sided with contenders aligned with the party leadership in Washington.
Ocasio-Cortez, a former organizer for the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., ran on a sharply liberal agenda, including abolishing the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and making Medicare a universal program.
President Trump gloated about the surprising result, tweeting after the race was called that “Big Trump Hater Congressman Joe Crowley, who many expected was going to take Nancy Pelosi’s place, just LOST his primary election. In other words, he’s out!”
Crowley’s defeat came on a day of sweeping successes for the president, beginning when the Supreme Court upheld his travel ban covering several Muslim-majority countries. And Tuesday night, Trump extended a string of primary wins that have underscored his firm hold on his party.
In New York, Rep. Daniel Donovan won the GOP primary after Trump endorsed him over former congressman Michael Grimm, who was seeking the office he surrendered after pleading guilty to tax fraud in 2014.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, another Trump ally, on Tuesday won the Republican runoff for his seat, advancing to the general election a day after the president campaigned for him in the state. McMaster defeated businessman John Warren.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Sean Sullivan, David Weigel