Crowley not ready to endorse in race to replace him atop Dem caucus

Crowley not ready to endorse in race to replace him atop Dem caucus
© Greg Nash

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday declined to endorse a successor to lead the House Democratic Caucus next year, saying in his first press conference since his shocking primary upset last month that he’s staying neutral in the leadership contest — for now.

Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, is set to step down from the caucus chairman spot when he leaves Congress early next year. Two lawmakers — Reps. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), the vice chair of the caucus, and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeRussia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war MORE (D-Calif.) — have already entered the race to fill the vacancy, and others may join the contest following November’s midterms.

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Crowley, appearing on a stage Wednesday next to Sánchez, hailed his deputy as “a great partner” and “one of my closest friends” in Congress. But he stopped short of endorsing her, saying he’ll leave that choice to the Democrats who will be returning next year. 

“I will be the chair during that election, for one issue. The other is that I think it’s also up to the next caucus to decide who their leadership should be,” Crowley told reporters in the Capitol.

“I think we have tremendous talent within our caucus, Linda Sánchez certainly among them as she stands with me today,” he added. “I would leave that to the new Democratic Caucus, when elected in November.” 

Still, Crowley left open the possibility that he might back a candidate in the future, stipulating that he’s not making any endorsements “at this point.” 

Crowley, a popular 20-year veteran of the House, was the overwhelming favorite heading into the June 26 primary in his heavily Democratic district, which is composed of parts of Queens and the Bronx. His resounding loss to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year old liberal activist who’s never held political office, stunned Washington and shook up a Democratic leadership debate that was already heating up heading into the midterm elections.

Crowley’s press conference Wednesday was the first since his defeat last month, and he was quick to express his disappointment with the outcome — and take the blame.

“I would have much rather have been reelected. But I have said consistently that I respect the electoral process. We all play by the same rules,” he said. “I think there were a confluence of things that led to this loss, but what I will say is that this is on me.”

In a strange twist, Crowley won the line of the Working Families Party in last month's primary, meaning his name will likely appear on the ballot under New York’s arcane election laws.

The revelation led Ocasio-Cortez initially to accuse Crowley of trying to upend her congressional run with a third-party challenge — a charge that angered a number of Democrats on Capitol Hill, where Crowley is a popular figure.

Crowley on Wednesday said the flare-up was all a misunderstanding resulting from “missed lines of communication.” He acknowledged that he was so confident of his victory that he didn’t know how to get in touch with Ocasio-Cortez after the results had come in.

“Going back to … primary night itself, neither side had each other’s phone numbers. And maybe that’s more reflective of the fact that people didn’t see this coming. Nor did we, quite frankly,” he said. 

“I think it’s somewhat understandable that there was missed opportunities,” he added. “Not an intentional [failure] on our part, and I hope — I don’t think on their part, either.” 

The pair spoke last week by phone, and both have said it was a cordial discussion. 

Crowley made it clear again Wednesday that he has no intention of challenging her on November’s ballot.

“I am not running,” he said.