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 PelosiSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Trump says he spoke to Pelosi, McConnell on border package MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats already jockeying for House leadership posts House Democratic leaders work to secure votes for border bill Hoyer: House won't move forward on congressional pay bump MORE  (Md.) and Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnHispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump calls off Iran strike at last minute 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 KrishnamoorthiOvernight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing House panel launches investigation into Juul House Intelligence enjoys breakthrough with Justice Department MORE (D-Ill.), 44, told The Hill. “Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyOcasio-Cortez marks one-year anniversary of her primary win Bronx restaurants thank Ocasio-Cortez for her endorsements Ocasio-Cortez fundraises off criticism from Steve King 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 Swalwell2020 Dems say they will visit Homestead facility holding migrant children Warren visits migrant care shelter, says children being marched 'like little prisoners' Where 2020 Democrats stand in betting markets ahead of first debate MORE (Calif.), co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee; and Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDemocrats already jockeying for House leadership posts The bottom dollar on recession, Trump's base, and his reelection prospects DCCC says it raised .85 million in May MORE (Ill.), Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Democrats already jockeying for House leadership posts House Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill MORE (N.Y.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Democrats already jockeying for House leadership posts Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups MORE (R.I.), who jointly lead the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the caucus’s messaging arm.

Two Pelosi critics, Reps. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Anticipation high ahead of first debate Where 2020 Democrats stand in betting markets ahead of first debate Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval MORE (Mass.) and Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Anticipation high ahead of first debate Where 2020 Democrats stand in betting markets ahead of first debate Tim Ryan defends shift to supporting abortion rights 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 PocanWarren introduces universal child care legislation On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push MORE (Wis.) and Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOcasio-Cortez: It was easier to get elected to Congress than pay off student loan debt House Democratic leaders work to secure votes for border bill Republican lawmaker: Plan to #CancelStudentDebt 'is immoral' MORE (Wash.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinStacey Abrams urges lawmakers to restore Voting Rights Act Democrats seek to ban federal spending at Trump businesses Warren introduces universal child care legislation MORE (Md.) and Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyOvernight Defense: Transgender troops rally as ban nears | Trump may call more troops to border | National Guard expects 3M training shortfall from border deployment | Pentagon to find housing for 5,000 migrant children Transgender troops rally as Pentagon prepares to implement ban The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump rallies for second term on 'promises kept' MORE III, (Mass.) as well Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval Sanders unveils student debt plan amid rivalry with Warren 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 GallegoBipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Hispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership 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 SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again Don't expect Trump-sized ratings for Democratic debates 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. IsraelThis is how the debates will play out The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Ghosts of 2016 primary haunt Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) retired in 2017, while Rep. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenVan Hollen proposes raising estate tax to boost Social Security Trump planning Air Force One flyover during July 4 celebration at Mall: report Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw MORE won a Senate seat representing Maryland.

Crowley’s predecessor as caucus chairman, former Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia now requires background checks for all gun ammo purchases Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups Four more states join attorneys general lawsuit to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger 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 Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE won.

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

— Sylvan Lane contributed