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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 PelosiDisputed North Carolina race raises prospect of congressional probe The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown Kobach ‘very concerned’ voter fraud may have happened in North Carolina MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDisputed North Carolina race raises prospect of congressional probe Kobach ‘very concerned’ voter fraud may have happened in North Carolina Dem McCready withdraws concession as election fraud claims hit North Carolina race MORE  (Md.) and Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnClyburn calls for new election and GOP primary in North Carolina House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership Moulton says no deal reached with Pelosi on leadership changes 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 KrishnamoorthiGOP, Comey have tense day — with promise of a second date Cohen plea gives Dems new momentum for Russia probes Dem lawmakers call for Cohen to testify to Congress after guilty plea MORE (D-Ill.), 44, told The Hill. “Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyNancy Pelosi's incredible comeback Ocasio-Cortez on why young people need to run for Congress Dems rally for Green New Deal 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 SwalwellSwalwell: Open to Swalwell-Biden or Biden-Swalwell ticket Cher pitches Biden-Harris or Biden-Swalwell for 2020 Swalwell: 'Circumstantial evidence' Michael Cohen told more lies to committee MORE (Calif.), co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee; and Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's Morning Report — Markets on edge over Trump, Xi trade negotiations House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership Bustos elected to lead Democratic campaign arm MORE (Ill.), Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesCriminal justice reform splits 2020 Democrats Second woman says she was paid to collect absentee ballots in North Carolina House race Hakeem Jeffries on GOP operatives in NC fraud probe: 'Lock them up' MORE (N.Y.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump defends 2016 Russia business dealings | North American leaders sign new trade pact | Clinton doesn't tamp down 2020 talk How Nancy Pelosi won more votes for Speaker than anyone expected Rihanna on US Border Patrol firing tear gas at migrants: ‘Terrorism’ MORE (R.I.), who jointly lead the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the caucus’s messaging arm.

Two Pelosi critics, Reps. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonWHIP LIST: Pelosi seeks path to 218 Moulton calls out Ocasio-Cortez's tweet defending Pelosi as 'offensive' The Hill's Morning Report — Intraparty skirmishes light up lame-duck session MORE (Mass.) and Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanOn The Money: Trump touts China actions day after stock slide | China 'confident' on new trade deal | GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts | Huawei CFO arrested GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts GM lobbyists go into full crisis mode over layoffs 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 PocanSetting the record straight about No Labels Progressive rep says she’s ‘very disappointed' by Barbara Lee’s loss in bid for Dem caucus chair For suffering animals, a new audit of the USDA can’t happen soon enough MORE (Wis.) and Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalPush to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives Dem lawmaker says she helped group of migrants enter U.S., apply for asylum Overnight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst MORE (Wash.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinMarriott breach spurs new privacy law push Hillicon Valley: FBI investigating NRCC cyber breach | AOL parent fined M over children's privacy concerns | Quora joins Marriott in latest data leaks | NYPD reveals new drone fleet | IRS warns of 'surge' in tax phishing scams On The Money: Trump touts 'big leap forward' with China | Questions mount about trade truce | Consumer bureau name change could cost firms 0M | GM chief to meet Ohio senators MORE (Md.) and Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedySenate Republicans urgently need to embrace criminal justice reform Overnight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can support revised 'Medicare for all' bill next year MORE III, (Mass.) as well Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Defense: Senate Armed Services chair eyes Russia, China threats | Pushes Trump not to cut defense budget | Mattis says US looking for more Khashoggi evidence Push to pay congressional interns an hour gains traction with progressives Dems rally for Green New Deal 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 GallegoHispanic Caucus picks Castro as its next chair We all must speak up to protect our national monuments Dem rep: Trump is ‘scared’ of House Democratic oversight 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) SandersChildren's singer Raffi on criticizing Trump: 'You have to fight fascism with everything you’ve got' Sanders to Colbert: 'You will be my vice presidential candidate!' Sanders: Trump said midterms were about him, and he lost 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. IsraelA father and son unite the nation How Nancy Pelosi won more votes for Speaker than anyone expected GOP sits back and enjoys Dem fight over Pelosi MORE (D-N.Y.) retired in 2017, while Rep. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHillicon Valley: Trade talks set up cyber clash | Google CEO set to testify next week | DOJ charges Iranians with hacking | Mnuchin suggests Twitter account was breached | Facebook expands local news feature Bipartisan Senate duo asks White House to investigate ZTE's work in Venezuela Dems criticize Brady's new tax package MORE won a Senate seat representing Maryland.

Crowley’s predecessor as caucus chairman, former Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Ocasio-Cortez, Tim Scott, Becerra among Bloomberg's 50 most noteworthy in 2018 Target to pay .4M after probe found it illegally dumped hazardous waste in California 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 TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE won.

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

— Sylvan Lane contributed