U.S. House

Rep. Joe Crowley’s defeat in Tuesday’s primaries is one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.


A few months back, 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley was wielding power as Queens County’s Democratic chairman when he helped engineer the election of Councilmember Corey Johnson as speaker, and—as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus—was being touted as a potential future speaker of the House.

On Tuesday, Crowley was badly beaten in a Democratic primary by newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 57 percent to 42 percent—a contest that drew 13 percent of active Democrats in the Bronx-Queens district to the polls. Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a self-described Democratic Socialist, advocates abolishing ICE, creating Medicare for All, implementing a federal jobs guarantee and treating housing as a human right.

Crowley’s failure to show up for two of three candidate debates—his decision to send a former Councilwoman in his place to the final one earned a scolding from the New York Times editorial board—might have helped turn the tide against him. According to federal campaign data, Crowley had outspent Ocasio-Cortez by a margin of $3.4 million to $207,000 over the 2017-2018 cycle through June 6.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

This was the second election upset to affect a Crowley in the past year: Last November, the Congressman’s cousin, then-City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, was defeated by a very slim margin in a re-election attempt.

But Crowley wasn’t supposed to be the incumbent who got turned out in Tuesday’s contests. A few weeks ago it looked like that would be Rep. Daniel Donovan, whom some polls indicated would be overwhelmed by Michael Grimm’s comeback attempt after federal prison. In the end, Donovan—who garnered President Trump’s endorsement in a contest where the candidates competed for who could show the greatest fealty to the president—prevailed easily with 64 percent of the vote.

On the Democratic side in the same district, Max Rose easily bested five other Democrats to claim the nomination to face Donovan in November. The 11th district is one of the seats national Democrats think they can flip from red to blue this year, but Donovan’s victory could make that more difficult. Preliminary figures indicate that Democratic turnout in the district on Tuesday, at 9.3 percent, was about half what Republican turnout was (18.3 percent), which could point to a lack of enthusiasm

The evening saw an unusually high number of challenges to sitting members of Congress in the city, with six facing primaries, two more than in the previous two cycles. With the shocking exception of Crowley, however, the incumbents all prevailed.

In a rather close race, Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke won over Adem Bunkeddeko by a roughly 52-48 margin. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, representing areas of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn bordering the East River, beat back an aggressive challenge from Suraj Patel. The 13-term Congresswoman won 58 percent of the vote.

In a district spanning Queens and Nassau County, Rep. Gregory Meeks cruised against challengers Mizan Choudhury and Carl Achille with 80.9 percent of the vote. Rep. Eliot Engel, whose district covers the top of the Bronx and areas to the north and west of the city, prevailed with 74 percent of the vote against Jonathan Lewis, Derickson Lawrence and Joyce Briscoe.

Turnout was relatively low, as expected. Adjusted for the number of precincts in each district reporting results, here are preliminary estimates:

District Party Winner Estimated turnout
5th Democratic Meeks 4.08%
9th Democratic Clarke 9.20%
11th Democratic Rose 9.31%
11th Republican Donovan 18.28%
12th Democratic Maloney 16.12%
14th Democratic Ocasio-Cortez 13.23%
16th Democratic Engel 11.19%