Before Crowley can get on with his ladder climbing, he needs to do something somewhat unfamiliar: run a campaign. For the first time since at least 2004, he will be forced to compete in a primary in the overwhelmingly Democratic district spanning northern Queens and a chunk of the eastern Bronx. Since Republican victories are all but impossible, the primary is where the action is — and where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 27-year-old former organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, hopes to pull off her historic upset.
“What Joe Crowley represents is the floodgate between Wall Street and the United States government. He’s the clearing house, he takes millions and millions of dollars in funding from them,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Voice. “We see how he’s come to power locally — it’s totally undemocratic, machine-run, dynastic. He’s trying to spread this same model on the federal level.”
Ocasio-Cortez, attacking Crowley from the left, is just one of about a dozen candidates running on the slate of Brand New Congress, a political action committee founded by former Sanders staffers to elect more progressive members of Congress. She is the only member of Brand New Congress running from New York. A resident of the Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester, Ocasio-Cortez organized Sanders’s campaign in the South Bronx — Hillary Clinton, heavily favored in New York City, won the Bronx handily — and started thinking seriously about running for Congress after Donald Trump’s election. She learned quickly that people usually didn’t even contemplate running against Crowley, let alone start an actual campaign.
“A lot of progressive groups are coming out of the woodwork. They’ve been trying to find a challenger to Crowley for years,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It’s literally political suicide for anyone with a semblance of a political career.”