Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems

Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems
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Rep. Joseph Crowley’s stunning defeat in his primary has created an unexpected opening for a younger, more progressive candidate to challenge the old bulls of House Democratic leadership — Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia GOP looks to blunt Dems’ attacks on rising premiums Who will be the ‘bridge’ for the Democrats? MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia House leaders clash over resolution backing ICE Hoyer calls on GOP to bring up election security amendment MORE  (Md.) and Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near NYT editorial board: Time for some young Dem leaders Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (S.C.) — who are all in their late 70s.

Crowley, the New York Democrat who holds the No. 4 leadership spot, was seen as the next possible Democratic Speaker. But his loss to 28-year-old progressive upstart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday night shook Washington and shined the spotlight back on rank-and-file Democrats’ desire to see a generational change at the top.

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By Wednesday, the dust had not settled, and it was still unclear what exactly Crowley’s defeat would mean for the broader 193-member caucus. But in the hours after Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory, hundreds of conversations had taken place over text message, email and phone, with lawmakers floating more than a dozen names of colleagues who could run for leadership.

“It’s wide open,” freshman Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiHouse GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day Dem calls for hearings on allegations Pruitt retaliated against staffers Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (D-Ill.), 44, told The Hill. “Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyPoll: Cuomo expands lead over Nixon in New York Dem primary Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Crowley tweets: 'Still not running' MORE was seen as a friend of many different [constituencies] and advocacy caucuses and now there is a lot of room to fill and a lot of people are thinking about it.”

Some younger members being floated for a top leadership spot include members of Pelosi’s own leadership team: House Democrats’ campaign chief, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.); caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda Sánchez (Calif.), who previously led the Hispanic Caucus; Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDem on Putin coming to US: 'You don't invite the burglar to dinner' Intel Dem: Trump sending McFaul to Russia could be grounds for impeachment Former top Dem: Not every candidate should run on impeaching Trump MORE (Calif.), co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee; and Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosHouse Dems select new midterm slogan: 'For the people' Lots of love: Charity tennis match features lawmakers teaming up across the aisle Dem generation gap widens MORE (Ill.), Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesMembers of Congress weigh in on the great 4th of July debate: Hot dogs or hamburgers Dem generation gap widens Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (N.Y.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHouse GOP refuses to boost funding for election security Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech Live coverage: FBI agent defends anti-Trump texts in tense hearing MORE (R.I.), who jointly lead the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the caucus’s messaging arm.

Two Pelosi critics, Reps. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonHoping to catch fire, House Dems eye White House The Hill's Morning Report — Battle lines drawn: Kavanaugh’s confirmation fight gets under way Dem generation gap widens MORE (Mass.) and Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanHoping to catch fire, House Dems eye White House Ocasio-Cortez draws ire from Democrats: ‘Meteors fizz out’ Pelosi wants party leadership elections post-Thanksgiving MORE (Ohio), are other names being tossed around. Pelosi beat back an insurgent challenge from Ryan in 2016.

And members of the Progressive Caucus who’ve been encouraged to run include co-Chairman Mark PocanMark William PocanHouse backs resolution expressing support for ICE House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (Wis.) and Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements House Dems launching Medicare for All Caucus Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech MORE (Wash.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech Dems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech MORE (Md.) and Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyTop Dem lawmaker pushing committee for closed-door debrief with Trump’s interpreter Dem rep knocks Trump’s credibility: ‘Would' versus 'wouldn't' is a ‘pretty big deal’ Hoping to catch fire, House Dems eye White House MORE III, (Mass.) as well Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaNew Dem star to rattle DC establishment Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill next week FTC Democrat hires tech critic who wrote paper describing Amazon as monopoloy MORE (Calif.), who endorsed both Crowley and Ocasio-Cortez in the New York race.

Khanna, a former Obama administration official who represents a San Francisco Bay–area district near Pelosi’s, is being urged to run by progressive voices like “The Young Turks” founder Cenk Uygur. While Khanna, 41, declined to comment about a possible bid, he said the message from Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is clear: Democratic leaders going forward must embrace a more progressive agenda.

“It’s a clarion call for bold, progressive leadership and having an agenda of ‘Medicare for all,’ free public college, against police brutality, having a clear vision and conviction-based politics,” Khanna told The Hill. “Grass-roots organizing and inspiring people is far more important than just fundraising. The energy of this party is with organizing, with momentum, with social media. The tools of winning elections have changed, and conviction-driven politics can inspire.”

Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDem lawmaker demands probe into defense contractor that held migrant children in vacant building Dems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (D-Ariz.), 38, said Ocasio-Cortez’s triumph over Crowley represented a demographic and generational change happening in the Democratic Party.

“I think you are seeing a lot more progressive, younger people coming out and voting in primaries because they are feeling the brunt of the Trump administration’s actions, especially people of color,” Gallego said. “I think you saw that [Tuesday] — a young, Latina progressive was basically able to [drive] out the people in the district, which is young, Latino and progressive.

“I think that’s where the Democratic Party is.”

However, Democratic leaders downplayed the implications of Ocasio-Cortez’s victory for the party’s leadership and positions nationally, even as they congratulated her on her win.

Hoyer, who serves as minority whip, told reporters in his office Wednesday that Ocasio-Cortez’s viral TV ad was extremely powerful, but added: “I don’t want to get into leadership questions.”

And Pelosi, the San Francisco liberal who made history as the first female Speaker of the House, pushed back on a question about whether her leadership team should better reflect her party: more female, progressive and young. 

“I’m female. I’m progressive. What’s your problem? Two out of three ain’t bad,” quipped Pelosi, a grandmother of nine. “They made a choice in one district. So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that within the caucus or outside the caucus.”

A senior Democratic aide added that “Pelosi has made clear that she’s staying put.”

Yet the victory of Ocasio-Cortez, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents and a former organizer for Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials GOP leader blocks resolution backing intelligence community on Russia MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, could complicate the path for Pelosi to return to the Speakership, and for Hoyer and Clyburn to ever move up the ladder.

“It’s definitely time for younger people to rise up,” said one House Democrat reacting to the Crowley political earthquake.

Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday declined to back Pelosi for Speaker should Democrats regain control of the House in November.

“I think it’s far too early to make those kinds of commitments right now,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s “Newsroom,” saying Democrats “need to just focus on winning in November first and then we’ll have the conversation about our leadership.”

Crowley, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus who was first elected to his Queens seat two decades ago, was seen as the last survivor of a new generation of House lawmakers who could not climb higher because of the entrenched leadership of Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn.

Former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) left the House in 2010 to become President Obama’s chief of staff, then successfully ran for Chicago mayor. And two others who held the DCCC post moved on as well: Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelPollster: GOP incumbents will try to de-emphasize Trump in midterms Former top Dem: Midterm message focus should be to 'just win' Former top Dem: Not every candidate should run on impeaching Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) retired in 2017, while Rep. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington GOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE won a Senate seat representing Maryland.

Crowley’s predecessor as caucus chairman, former Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraJudge dismisses most of Trump administration lawsuit over California immigration laws Overnight Health Care: Trump officials want more time to reunite families | Washington braces for Supreme Court pick | Nebraska could be next state to vote on Medicaid expansion Judge rejects Trump administration's request to block California sanctuary laws MORE, left the House last year to become California’s attorney general.

Bustos, a moderate Democrat who represents northwest Illinois, urged reporters not to read too much into the New York race, describing it as “unique.” But she confirmed that colleagues have reached out to her Wednesday about a possible leadership bid.

“I had some people who have contacted me. I tell them this is about 12 hours old right now and we’ll talk,” said Bustos, 56, a former journalist from the Quad Cities area. “People are just seeing our fourth-highest-ranking person in leadership lose his primary and that leads to a lot of questions about what comes next.”

“I’ve said that I’m very, very proud of our caucus because we value diversity in every way. One area where we haven’t valued it to the level I’d like to see is geographic diversity,” Bustos added. “I sit around the leadership table now and am the only Midwesterner. I’m the only person who sits around that table who comes from a district that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE won.

“And I think that’s very, very important to understand those kinds of districts.”

— Sylvan Lane contributed