Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2573 Wed, 19 Sep 2018 05:10:49 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Key Takeaways from Ocasio-Cortez's Victory http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7834:key-takeaways-from-ocasio-cortez-s-victory http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7834:key-takeaways-from-ocasio-cortez-s-victory ocasio cortez campaiging

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning (photo: @Ocasio2018)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory seems to be misunderstood in a number of ways. First, it is hard to say that it was representative of Democratic Party supporters in the district. Suppose we measure the Democratic Party voters by Crowley’s vote total in the 2016 Congressional election, when he faced no primary opponent and a nominal general election foe (Crowley won 83 percent). The 2018 Democratic primary total -- 28,000 votes -- was only 19.0 percent of this amount.

Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory reflected the typical outcome of a restrictive voting system favored by the Democratic Party establishment because of its ability to turn out its patronage base. The decline of the patronage base has reduced the turnout of establishment-oriented Democrats while Bernie Sanders has shown the way for a progressive challenger to harness the internet and social media to turn out a base of followers. Thus, Ocasio-Cortez was able to turn the tables on the Democratic Party organization in a low turnout election.

Second, her margin over Crowley was 3,584 in the Queens precincts but only 542 in Bronx precincts. This suggests that her appeal was not primarily to the Latino working-class community but instead the Queens professional class. This thesis is further strengthened by looking at the voter turnout in each borough. In 2016, 66.0% of Crowley’s votes were from Queens whereas in the 2018 primary, 72.4% of the votes were from Queens. Again this is consistent with the Sanders movement.

Despite his principled commitment to working-class politics, Sanders’ message overwhelming resonated with the professional class and little with communities of color. Having a Latina candidate, however, was ideal given the district’s ethnic composition and the desire of Sanders’ supporters to demonstrate their commitment to both far-left politics and multiculturalism.

What happened in the 14th Congressional district certainly reflects the decline of the ability of centrist Democrats to appeal to the anti-Trump movement.
There is also a deeper dynamic at work. In the 1950s, fully one-third of all non-supervisory private-sector personnel were members of unions, giving the Democratic Party a pragmatic working-class base that led to centrist policies.

Similarly, the working class support enabled left-of-center parties in Western Europe and Israel to contest for power with pragmatic centrist policies. In and around 2000, Clinton (U.S.), Blair (U.K.), Schroeder (Germany), Jospin (France), and Barak (Israel) represented victories for this agenda. However, as traditional working-class jobs have declined, as union membership in the private sector has plummeted, this base has shrunk and so too has the support for centrist policies. In the U.K., this has caused a shift in the Labor Party to a much more leftist orientation and this is the direction the Democratic Party has moved in the U.S.; no longer centered around private sector workers but increasingly a party of the professional class and less affluent people of color.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory crystallizes another important cleavage: the schism between an increasingly active anti-Israel stance among leftist Democrats and the pro-Israel stance of more centrist Democrats. The animus to Israel shown by Democratic Party leader Keith Ellison and candidate Bernie Sanders is amplified by her victory.

She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has as one of its platforms, support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. Not only has Ocasio-Cortez not rejected this part of the platform, she has enunciated extreme anti-Israel positions and not shown support for a two-state solution.

How will centrist pro-Israel Democrats deal with this increasingly aggressive anti-Israel stance? Senator Gillibrand, in her courting of the left flank, has embraced Ocasio-Cortez as she did Women’s March leaders who embrace the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. However, given his unequivocal support for Israel and rejection of BDS, what will Senator Schumer do? If centrists don’t stand firm on the issue of Israel, it further exposes the demise of the traditional Democratic Party.

***
Robert Cherry is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

Note: this article has been corrected with the intended French leader, Jospin.

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Key Takeaways from Ocasio-Cortez's Victory Mon, 30 Jul 2018 01:38:34 +0000
Why Chuck Schumer Should Fear the Election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7826:why-chuck-schumer-should-fear-the-election-of-alexandria-ocasio-cortez http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7826:why-chuck-schumer-should-fear-the-election-of-alexandria-ocasio-cortez chuck schumer phone

Senator Schumer on a tele-town hall (photo: @SenSchumer)


Pay heed Chuck Schumer. The base is coming for you.

And for good reason. The Democratic establishment is historically unpopular. And there is no exception even in deep blue New York.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resounding defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley, the so-called King of the Queens machine, makes clear that establishment Democrats need to wake up. The election of an overnight socialist sensation was a clear demonstration that the groundswell of grassroots progressive activism in New York has moved from street protests to the voting booth.

Ever since Democrats lost to the least qualified presidential candidate in the history of the republic in 2016, there has been a growing repulsion with the status quo on the left across the country generally and in New York City specifically.

Soon after Donald Trump took office, progressive activists took to protesting Senator Schumer outside his Park Slope home. Disgusted by his admitted willingness to work with the demagogue-in-chief, progressive activist groups like Indivisible Nation BK, of which I am a board member, braved the cold winter months to deliver a message: Donald Trump is a racist, xenophobic, treasonous existential threat to the nation and the world. And we want our senators, particularly the Senate minority leader, to say that loud and clear.

Senator Schumer would be wise not to take the base for granted. Just this month, members of Indivisible Nation BK gathered to hear him address his first town hall since Trump’s election. The event was the culmination of over a year of protests, pushing, and prodding by our group and others. However, the senator abruptly altered the event a mere 90 minutes before it was supposed to start. Apparently dealing with plane trouble, Senator Schumer told us he was stuck at an airport in Utica and would conduct a tele-town hall instead.

We were not impressed. As we anxiously waited for the opportunity to ask him how he would save our country, we listened in disbelief as the senator launched into a monologue about how he played basketball in high school and then got into Harvard.

We do not need a regurgitation of the senator’s well-known biography. What we need is leadership. As one tele-town hall participant put it, it’s like we are playing a basketball game, and while Democrats are practicing their bounce passes, Republicans are cutting players’ throats on the court.

Meanwhile, Trump is about to shape the Supreme Court for a generation. Incredibly, if you listened only to Sen. Schumer talk about the matter, you would never know that Trump is poised to do so while under federal investigation for obstruction of justice after his campaign blatantly and wantonly courted a hostile foreign adversary to swing his election. Just last week, Trump stood, quite literally, shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladimir Putin in rejecting his own intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Why is Chuck Schumer not taking every opportunity to call Trump an illegitimate traitor when talking about the Supreme Court fight? What weakness.

If Senator Schumer cannot whip his entire caucus to vote against any nominee not named Merrick Garland, then he should step aside as minority leader. Such a failure would further demonstrate what is becoming readily apparent: that Senator Schumer is not the leader for this dire hour. What we need is a progressive firebrand to lead the charge and throw as many wrenches into the machinery of corruption as possible.

We cannot compromise with the Republican Party. That is because there no longer is a Republican Party. It has been replaced by a reactionary white nationalist party masquerading as the Republican Party, beholden to only Trump. And there can be no compromise with what is dead and rotting. We expect our leaders to adopt a war footing, because, have no doubt, we are at war for the soul of our nation.

A war footing also means supporting bold and clear progressive policies such as Medicare-for-all, federal jobs and affordable housing guarantees, paid parental leave, and tuition-free public universities. When so-called “pragmatic” Democrats inevitably and facetiously ask us how we plan to pay for it, let us be equally resolute in our reply: by taxing corporations, millionaires, and billionaires. No more 12-point plans and carefully crafted, round table-produced cookie cutter messaging.

These progressive policies are overwhelmingly popular both nationally and in New York. This is why, for example, bold progressive policies have been the cornerstones of Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor against the comically establishment Andrew Cuomo. And it is also why Cuomo has been moving to the left as quickly as possible ever since Nixon announced her running.

Half-measures are no longer sufficient. New York’s Democratic voters expect our Democratic officials to bleed blue like us. They must be both moral authorities and fearless leaders.

So pay attention and take action, Senator Schumer. We are.

***
Steve Wagner is a Brooklyn-based activist and personal injury trial lawyer. He is an executive board member of Indivisible Nation BK. He blogs at brooklynresists.nyc. On Twitter @stevedwagner.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Why Chuck Schumer Should Fear the Election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wed, 25 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Assembly Race Poses Another Test for Queens Machine http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7805:assembly-race-poses-another-test-for-queens-machine http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7805:assembly-race-poses-another-test-for-queens-machine catalina cruz parade Queens

Catalina Cruz (photo: @CatalinaCruzNY)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley last month in New York’s 14th congressional district sent shockwaves throughout the country and signalled a monumental shift in Queens politics, where the Crowley-led county party has held significant sway in local elections for many years. The effects of Ocasio-Cortez’s win and Crowley’s loss, both nationally and locally, are still developing, but reverberations are certainly being felt in the already-competitive Democratic primary for New York Assembly District 39, where a county-backed incumbent is facing an independent challenger.

The district -- part of the 150-seat lower house of the state Legislature, all of which are on the ballot this fall, first in September 13 primaries -- covers the immigrant-heavy neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, and large parts of those fall within Crowley’s congressional district. It is currently represented by Assembly Member Ari Espinal, who was elected in a low-turnout special election barely three months ago, with fewer than 800 votes. Espinal was previously an aide to Francisco Moya, who held the Assembly seat before being elected to the New York City Council last year.

Espinal’s challenger in the primary is Catalina Cruz, an attorney with government experience who most recently served as chief of staff to former City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Espinal, whose cousin is Brooklyn City Council Member Rafael Epsinal, ran unopposed for the Assembly seat, having been endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party, which is chaired by Crowley and has played an influential role in not just Queens, but city and state elections for decades, as well as the selection of the powerful City Council speaker and a variety of other appointed positions. For a special election to the state Legislature, there are no party primaries, instead the party county committee selects its candidate for what is a singular public vote. In a heavily Democratic district like most in New York City, the party’s nominee is virtually  assured victory in a special election, and therefore gains at least some of the benefits of incumbency ahead of any subsequent intra-party challenges.

But the power of the Queens County Democrats’ endorsement is under question following Crowley’s landslide defeat to Ocasio-Cortez as he finishes his tenth term in the House. Queens Democratic insiders say Cruz is in important ways a stronger candidate than Espinal and that the Queens county machine -- a descriptor some take issue with -- is playing a minimal role in the race and has a far less threatening presence in the immediate aftermath of last month’s election. Some also point to the fact that the Queens county party has been defeated in a number of elections over the years by strong insurgent candidates, such as the victories of current City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as Ferreras-Copeland’s first win. Moya, meanwhile, helped orchestrate Espinal’s ascension and is actively campaigning on her behalf in an area where he has won several recent elections.

For her part, Espinal is confident about the race. “I welcome any challenge,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m from Corona, Queens. I was raised in this neighborhood. I welcome any challenge and it’s exciting. I feel like it’s the Democratic process, too. Why wouldn’t you want a challenge? You would want your voters to get engaged. This is how they get engaged more when they have to pick, to choose and say, ‘Who’s going to represent me the way I want to be represented?’”

Having been in office just under three months, Espinal has been prime sponsor on one bill that was passed by both legislative chambers, to extend a labor law relating to unemployment insurance proceedings, and another, called Carlos’ Law, which enacts punishments for developers that put workers at risk of injury or death, which passed only the Assembly. Espinal has also allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to her community, she said. She signed on to the Dream Act, which aims to provide state financial aid to undocumented immigrants seeking higher education. She’s received support for her reelection bid from Moya, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano, and the Working Families Party.

Espinal is relying on her experience as a longtime community organizer and former Democratic district leader, promising voters that she will bring resources back to her community. She has pledged to fight for immigrant protections, affordable housing, school funding, small businesses, and workers rights, and other locally-important issues. And she pushed back against the notion that she is the establishment candidate in the race. “Quite so often you have politicians who are not from the area and just want to run for office because they just want the power. I’m not looking for the power,” she said. “What I’m looking for is to actually engage my community and tell them, ‘I’m here. I’m here for you because I’ve lived here and I know the issues...because I’m your neighbor.’”

Cruz, Espinal’s opponent, strikes a similar chord with her campaign pitch. “My entire life is a spectrum of the people of Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst,” she said in a phone interview. But one thing that sets her far apart from Espinal is that Cruz herself is a “Dreamer,” a child of undocumented immigrants who came to New York at the age of nine and who only recently gained permanent resident status in 2009. “I went from being an undocumented child who picked cans in the street with her mom to survive, to being a Dreamer who was going to undergrad and paying for school for herself to a working poor lawyer...to being a middle-class New Yorker, which is basically the spectrum of the people who are here in our community,” she said.

After graduating law school and working as a housing attorney, Cruz joined the Attorney General’s office, then headed by Andrew Cuomo, before he was elected governor. Cruz served afterwards in the Department of Labor as counsel in the division of immigrant affairs. She worked with former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito -- who has endorsed her -- to write the legislation that kicked ICE agents off Rikers Island. She also returned to working for Cuomo, heading up his Exploited Workers Task Force, after which she joined Council Member Ferreras-Copeland’s staff. Her former boss has endorsed her, as have Council Members Dromm and Van Bramer, Helen Rosenthal, and Margaret Chin.

“We’re a people-driven campaign,” Cruz said of her approach to the race. “We start with people and we end with people. We start with the idea that all of our policies should be informed by people.” Though her policy platform largely resembles Espinal’s, Cruz says she sets herself apart by virtue of her independence, experience, her focus on the residents of the district who cannot vote, and her pledge to refuse corporate and luxury developer money (the latter a promise like one made by Ocasio-Cortez, who attacked Crowley for the large corporate donations he received).

“We are running a campaign that’s very much driven by people that live in the district and we’re independent from any ties to a political organization,” Cruz said.

Those ties or the lack thereof may not be determinative in the Assembly race that does again put the power of the Queens County Democrats in the spotlight, observers who spoke with Gotham Gazette said. One former Assembly candidate from Queens said the path to victory lies in a robust ground game and organization. “You knock on enough doors, you meet enough people, and you raise enough money, and the barriers to entry are very low,” the former candidate said. “How many people are gonna vote in an Assembly race? A few thousand? How much money do you need to raise for an assembly race? $100,000? How many doors are you gonna knock on?...You put your walking shoes on and you can do it. So I think party power is very limited and Ari and Catalina will win or lose on the strengths of their own organic, local operation.”

Democratic insiders pointed out that the Queens Democratic Party’s endorsement comes with political validation but not necessarily the resources to bolster a campaign, such as funding or boots on the ground. It’s why they disputed the characterization of the county party as a machine that can determine the course of campaigns. The party does, however, pressure potential contenders against considering a challenge to an incumbent and often brings with its endorsement a slew of loyal elected officials who coalesce around the county’s candidate and use their own resources and networks to boost them. The party also has connections at the Board of Elections and often attempts to knock challengers off the ballot and at times activates a network of district leaders and county committee members to help with ballot petition signature-gathering, door-knocking, and flyering.

“It seems like [Cruz] has real momentum and...everyone’s going to attest the strength of her campaign to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but I think the reality of it is the dynamics of that race were shaped well before the congressional race,” said a Queens Democratic operative who asked to remain anonymous to discuss things freely.

“I think people have an impression of the Queens county organization as a faulty machine,” the operative said, insisting that a loss by a county-backed candidate did not mean the so-called machine is faltering. “I think the reality is that’s not what the organization is...In my experience, they support somebody and their support will provide the significant assistance of validation from other elected officials. That’s very helpful...but it was never designed to overcome bad campaigns or great opposing candidates.”

If the incumbent candidate backed by the Queens Democrats loses to an independent challenger, the optics are far from ideal coming so close on the heels of Crowley’s loss. But the county has invested little in the race, said another Democratic insider from Queens who knows both Espinal and Cruz and who decried the term “machine” as a “loaded expression” for a county party that simply tries to elect its own members to office.

But the Queens county organization is undoubtedly powerful. The “machine” moniker stems from the fact that the party holds sway over more than just candidate endorsements -- its backing often also means a candidate will not receive a primary challenger. The county organization selects judicial nominees, and allies of Crowley have made hefty profits from being appointed as guardians in Surrogate’s Court. The party’s executive secretary is Michael Reich, whose partner Gerard Sweeney in the law firm Sweeney, Reich and Bolz, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Surrogate’s Court business. The county also selects one of the ten commissioners on the New York City Board of Elections, who decide which candidates qualify to appear on the ballot.

The City Council speaker’s race has more often than not also been decided by the influence of the Queens and Bronx county parties; Council central staffers are frequently picked from the county’s ranks; and Council committee chairs are influenced by county allegiances. And though Crowley may no longer represent the House next year, City & State reported that he’s expected to be reelected county chair by district leaders for another two-year term in September. The county organization did not return a request for comment for this article about its support for Espinal.

“I don’t think it would be a fair characterization to say this is a test of the county organization because I’m not sure they have all hands on deck for this one,” the insider said. The insider insisted that neither candidate needs the county party’s help to win the race, which would be won on the merits of their candidacies, and that Crowley’s fall is more likely to have an effect on the state Senate District 13 race, where Jessica Ramos is challenging Senator Jose Peralta, formerly of the rogue Independent Democratic Conference, which empowered Republicans. “I don’t think the Catalina-Ari race is affected by the Crowley result as much,” the insider said. “I just don’t get the sense that that changed everything...They weren’t dependent on Crowley for the win. Peralta was kinda depending on the county guys propping him up, keeping him strong and I feel like that has turned and now Ramos, if I had to bet, will win that race.”

Cruz herself drew a parallel with Ocasio-Cortez’s win, noting that voters turned out in higher numbers for the progressive challenger than Crowley in his own backyard, which encompasses large parts of the Assembly district, to vote out the incumbent. “[Ocasio-Cortez] believed in the everyday person and the everyday person believed in her so much that they went out and overwhelmingly voted for her,” she said. “And that’s where we find ourselves, in the exact same situation.”

But even she denied that she was poking the bear through her candidacy. “I wouldn’t call it testing their power because I never said I’m running against the machine,” Cruz said. “I’ve always said I’m running for the people. We have an organization that was just shown what people powered campaigns can do and we’re about to show them a second time.”

If anything, the race may show that the Queens party’s once-coveted support has turned sour, seen by some as a signal of establishment politics that has been too out of touch with regular voters. “I think it definitely suffered,” said the Democratic insider of the county party’s endorsement. “It’s very raw and very recent, the whole Joe thing...I don’t know if this is a permanent problem or just a temporary one. But the timing right now is bad for those people.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Assembly Race Poses Another Test for Queens Machine Mon, 16 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Socialists Boost Each Other http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7781:democratic-socialists-and-ocasio-cortez-boost-each-other http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7781:democratic-socialists-and-ocasio-cortez-boost-each-other Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez NYC DSA socialism

Ocasio-Cortez and DSA (image: NYC DSA)


Donald Trump was a boon to the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA. The organization, founded in the early 1970s, had comfortably maintained between 5,000 and 10,000 members for most of its existence. But on the first day following Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, over 1,000 individuals joined DSA. Between November 2016 and July 2017, DSA gained over 13,000 new members. As of now, there are over 30,000 Democratic Socialists of America, and, after a shocking upset in last Tuesday’s New York congressional primaries, one appears headed to the United States House of Representatives.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Rep. Joe Crowley — the “King of Queens,” ten-term incumbent, chair of the House Democratic Caucus and shortlisted successor of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — stunned the political world, and it all but guarantees that the 28-year-old member of DSA’s New York City chapter, NYC-DSA, will head to Washington, D.C., in January.

Ocasio-Cortez’s win is another big boost to DSA, especially its New York City branch, and DSA helped her pull off the event that sent shockwaves throughout local and national politics. NYC-DSA co-chair Abdullah Younus told Gotham Gazette that the local chapter canvassed for Ocasio-Cortez and provided her with political guidance.

“This is nothing short of a political earthquake,” said Younus. “Every corporate-funded politician should be terrified.”

In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Younus described the Democratic Socialists of America as a “grassroots, member-driven organization.” It is not a political party, but an activist organization with an array of chapters in 47 states and Washington, D.C., united under the rule of the 16-person National Political Committee, which guides and helps implement DSA’s political goals.

The New York City chapter is the nation’s largest, with over 3,000 members as of last November. It describes Governor Andrew Cuomo as “a major roadblock for any progressive agenda,” the New York State Legislature as “corrupt to its core,” and Mayor Bill de Blasio as “a major disappointment.”

It endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in late April. She had been running for the Democratic nomination to represent District 14, covering parts of Queens and the Bronx, in the U.S. House of Representatives since the previous May, and approached NYC-DSA for its endorsement.

Ocasio-Cortez’s platform largely aligns with DSA’s leftist values. She centered her campaign on racial, social, and economic justice, with a heavy focus on housing affordability, and has called for universal health care coverage, a federal jobs guarantee, and the abolition and investigation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She regularly provides variations of her belief that “in a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live," as she said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and has said, “to me, what socialism means is to guarantee everyone a basic level of dignity,” according to NYC-DSA.

NYC-DSA runs a citywide Electoral Working Group that recruits and supports socialists running for local election, operating what Younus termed a “candidate recruiting pipeline.” The Electoral Working Group contacts individuals interested in running for public office and discusses with them the prospects of a political run, focusing efforts on women, people of color, and working-class New Yorkers.

Once she’d received the approval of the Electoral Working Group, different organizational branches, and, ultimately, the citywide group, Ocasio-Cortez gained access to NYC-DSA’s veritable army of canvassers. NYC-DSA members knocked on “thousands of doors” throughout District 14 in support of Ocasio-Cortez, collected voter data, and assisted with funding, according to Younus. Ocasio-Cortez was buoyed by small-dollar donations and used the comparison to Crowley’s heavily-corporate-funded campaign to make her case as someone in tune with the community who would not be influenced by large donors.

NYC-DSA has offered its endorsement sparingly. The only other candidate in New York City currently endorsed by the organization is Julia Salazar, an organizer running for New York State Senate in Northern Brooklyn’s District 18, where she is attempting to unseat state Senator Martin Dilan in the Democratic primary set for September 13.

“We keep it generally limited so that we don’t just do paper endorsements,” Younus told Gotham Gazette. “We do real endorsements...our strength is our ability to knock on doors. If a person approaches us that we’re willing to endorse, we’re going to donate our labor.”

Nationwide, DSA is emerging as a significant political force. Dozens of DSA members are running for elected office, according to The New York Times, and “socialism” is hardly the dirty word it once was, especially among young Americans. DSA appears to be part of the energy moving the Democratic Party, and many of its elected officials, leftward, while also working to replace some of them. On the other hand, the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, who was endorsed by DSA, and, now, the victory by Ocasio-Cortez have heightened public criticism by many on the right of “socialism,” where it is typically conflated with communist, authoritarian regimes, like Cuba’s, as opposed to modern European models, like in Sweden, that are guided by socialist principles. Those critics have also raised questions about Ocasio-Cortez's and other Democratic Socialists' views on raising taxes and allowing more immigrants into the country, among other issues.

The New York City chapter of DSA is “absolutely” expecting to see an uptick in interest from prospective candidates seeking its endorsement and resources, said Younus, and the infrastructure to handle an influx in electoral work is said to be in place.

“The more we rattle the establishment,” he continued, “the more we empower people who otherwise would not have considered seeking office because of the entrenched power involved.”

These remarks echo Ocasio-Cortez’s, delivered as she watched the results from the primary election roll in: “We meet a machine with a movement.”

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Socialists Boost Each Other Sun, 01 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
A Closer Look at Voter Turnout in 2018 New York Congressional Primaries http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7774:a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7774:a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries joe crowley voting

Rep. Joe Crowley votes (photo: @JoeCrowleyNY)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary defeat of Representative Joe Crowley has sent shockwaves through both the New York and national political worlds.

The 28-year-old Latina democratic-socialist who has never held elected office and refused money from corporate PACs stood in stark contrast to Crowley, a 56-year-old, ten-term Congressional representative who was a prolific Democratic Party fundraiser, served as the chair of the Queens Democratic Party, and was seen by some as the next Democratic Speaker of the House.

Ocasio-Cortez’s win is being partly attributed to her campaign’s organizing, strong ground game, and significant social media presence, as well as its embrace of progressive policies such as ICE abolition and single-payer healthcare. She didn’t merely upset Crowley, she won handily, by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent.

Maps compiled by the CUNY Center for Urban Research show that support in the election that has the country buzzing did not break down neatly on racial lines; in fact, Ocasio-Cortez maintained strong support throughout the district, across areas of various demographic makeups.

“This wasn’t a fluke,” said Steven Romalewski, of the Center for Urban Research. “She was able to get voters from almost every neighborhood to come out and support her.” Romalewski noted that, contrary to the conventional wisdom of voting on racial lines, the areas where Ocasio-Cortez’s showing was strongest were areas that weren’t predominantly Hispanic, signaling that her showing may not have been due to the district’s changing demographics (it has been steadily becoming less white for years), but due to desire for change from Crowley.

ny14 primary 2018 electionnightdraft

Though Ocasio-Cortez whipped up energy among voters in the Queens and Bronx district, and there is little to compare voter turnout to because Crowley had not been challenged since 2004, the primary election was decided, like most elections in New York, by a relatively small number of people.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday, the State Board of Elections shows 27,826 registered Democrats cast votes in Tuesday’s primary in New York’s 14th District. With 235,745 registered Democrats as of April, according to the BOE, this comes out to a turnout of around 11.8 percent.

This turnout is about the same as in Crowley’s last competitive primary, in 2004. According to the Federal Election Commission, 12.4 percent of Democrats in Crowley’s district voted that year, which was a presidential election year, unlike this year, and saw congressional and state-level primaries on the same September day. New York has since moved its congressional primaries to June.

For comparison, when Crowley was reelected to Congress two years ago, in 2016, he faced no primary opponent and nominal competition in the general election, but in the general he received 147,567 votes as many more voters turned out on Election Day than typically do for party primaries, even when they are competitive. Ocasio-Cortez will herself now face Republican Anthony Pappas and Conservative Elizabeth Perri in the general election, but is expected to win easily.

Regardless of the low primary turnout, Romalewski characterized Ocasio-Cortez’s win in the same way as most other observers: a massive upset.

“The challenger was able to do something with her supporters that the incumbent wasn’t,” Romalewski said. “And that’s surprising given that the incumbent has the power of incumbency, has the power of the party machine behind him, and has the power of endorsements, and long time political support in both counties, Queens and the Bronx, and that was not enough to hold off the challenger. So that’s a big upset.”

Turnout on Tuesday was similarly low in other closely-watched congressional primaries. In the 9th District, in Brooklyn, where Representative Yvette Clarke narrowly beat New York Times-endorsed Adem Bunkeddeko 52 to 48 percent, Democratic turnout is only at about 8.2 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to the BOE. 28,663 Democrats voted out of 347,466 total in the district.

In the 12th District, including parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, where Representative Carolyn Maloney dispatched challenger Suraj Patel 58 to 41 percent, Democratic turnout stands at about 13.6 percent with 99 percent reporting. 41,460 Democrats voted out of 304,115 total in the district.

Turnout was slightly higher in the Republican primary in the 11th District, covering Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn, where incumbent Representative Dan Donovan was seemingly running a tight race with his predecessor Michael Grimm, only for Donovan to handily beat Grimm, 63 to 36 percent. That primary, featuring a rare such primary battle of the two most recent officeholders and an apparently race-altering endorsement of Donovan by President Donald Trump, saw a turnout of 17 percent of registered Republicans -- 20,118 Republicans voted out of 117,983 registered in the district.

Romalewski said that the high profile nature of the race played a part in the higher turnout. “Not only was it a high profile race, but there was an incumbent and a former incumbent running for the primary vote,” he said. “So there was a lot of institutional support on both sides, and a lot of interest on both sides, and a lot of familiarity with the voters, so it’s not surprising that there was relatively robust turnout in District 11.”

ny11 primary 2018 electionnightdraft

Similarly to Ocasio-Cortez’s convincing win District 14, Romalewski noted that Donovan’s strong support was widespread across the district rather than being concentrated in pockets. He won the overwhelming majority of election districts, and beat Grimm by significant margins in both the Staten Island and Brooklyn sections of the district.

In the crowded Democratic primary in District 11, Max Rose defeated five other Democratic hopefuls with 63 percent of the vote. That primary saw a turnout of 8.5 percent -- 17,098 Democrats voted out of 200,410 total registered in the district. The Donovan-Rose general election is expected to draw a lot of interest, and money, from around the state and country, as Democrats see it as a possible pick-up toward flipping the House.

In Maloney’s last noteworthy primary challenge, from Reshma Saujani in 2010, turnout stood at 16.4 percent. The last competitive primary in the district represented by Donovan was in 2010, when it was the 13th District and Grimm defeated Michael Allegretti in an election with 13.7 percent turnout. Both of these primaries occurred before a 2012 federal court decision that led New York to become the only state this year with separate federal and state primary days, wherein the state was forced to move its congressional primary earlier in the year and lawmakers declined to also move the state-level vote. The separate days can depress turnout, says Romalewski.

“In recent years, there’s been as many as four elections within a year, primaries and generals, that people have to turn out for,” he said. In 2016, New York voters turned out for presidential primaries in April, congressional primaries in June, state and local primaries in September, and finally the general election in November. “It definitely risks voter burnout, the opposite of turnout.”

Clarke’s last primary challenge, in 2012, saw a 6.2 percent turnout. Maloney faced a challenge in 2016 from attorney Peter Lindner, in a race that saw a 6.7 percent turnout.

Turnout was similarly low elsewhere in the city and state. In the 5th District, where Representative Gregory Meeks won 81 percent of the vote against two challengers, Mizan Choudhury and Carl Achille, saw a 3.8 percent turnout. In the 16th District, Eliot Engel dispatched three challengers -- Jonathan Lewis, Derickson Lawrence, and Joyce Briscoe -- with 74 percent of the vote in an election with 9.8 percent turnout.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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A Closer Look at Voter Turnout in 2018 New York Congressional Primaries Wed, 27 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Ocasio-Cortez Upsets Crowley, Donovan Defeats Grimm & Other 2018 New York Congressional Primary Results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7770:ocasio-cortez-upsets-crowley-donovan-defeats-grimm-other-2018-new-york-congressional-primary-results http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7770:ocasio-cortez-upsets-crowley-donovan-defeats-grimm-other-2018-new-york-congressional-primary-results ocasio-cortez campaign buttons

Ocasio-Cortez campaign buttons (image via @Ocasio2018)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old self-identified democratic socialist, unseated 10-term Congressional representative and Queens Democratic Party leader Joe Crowley in a dramatic upset quickly having ripple effects both locally and nationally. And she won handily, by about 4,000 votes and a 57.5 to 42.5 percent margin.

Crowley entered the House in 1999 and maintained a largely center-left voting record; he was seen as a strong contender to become the next Democratic Speaker of the House, after Nancy Pelosi. Crowley is also the chair of the Queens Democratic Party, making him one of the most powerful kingmakers in New York City politics. Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina from the Bronx, ran an aggressive, organized, energetic campaign to Crowley’s left, accusing the incumbent of acquiescing to real estate and financial interests rather than adequately representing constituents of the district. She has professed support for Medicare for All (which Crowley also supported during the campaign), a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college, reinstating Glass-Steagall, and abolishing ICE.

She further distinguished herself from Crowley by refusing money from corporate PACs; Crowley, a prolific fundraiser for the party, has raised millions of dollars over the course of his career from corporations. Crowley significantly outraised and outspent Ocasio-Cortez, but she made up for it with a significant social media presence, strong ground game, and glowing profiles in national publications. Crowley raised more eyebrows when he failed to show up for a debate with Ocasio-Cortez, instead sending former City Council Member Annabel Palma in his place, which earned him a rebuke from The New York Times editorial board.

Ocasio-Cortez has said that her campaign is part of a movement, emblematic of a far-left wave that is seeking to take over the Democratic primary in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, and with a chance to flip the House at stake this fall. She is all but certain to win the general election, something Crowley noted in a gracious concession speech wherein he also said he’d be supporting Ocasio-Cortez moving forward.

The challenger’s win appeared to give a shot in the arm to other progressives hoping to unseat incumbent Democrats this year, namely gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had exchanged endorsements with Ocasio-Cortez on Monday and attended what became her victory party Tuesday night. Also apparently boosted by the result are the challengers to the former members of the Independent Democratic Conference of the State Senate. Those primaries will all be held September 13.

Crowley was among a handful of long-time Democratic incumbents facing spirited primary challenges on Tuesday. The others appeared to hang on, with Rep. Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn leading Adem Bunkedekko by a 1,000-vote margin with 99 percent of precincts reporting at about midnight. Bunkedekko had earned the endorsement of the Times editorial board in his insurgent campaign, but it did not appear to do quite enough to get him over the hump against Clarke.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Eliot Engel also fended off primary challengers, by wider margins.

Other than the Ocasio-Cortez victory, the other top storyline of the night was Rep. Dan Donovan fending off a primary challenge from his predecessor, Michael Grimm, that looked to be going Grimm's way before President Donald Trump endorsed Donovan. Donovan wound up winning by more than 20 percentage points, though.

On the Democratic side in New York’s 11th Congressional District, Max Rose won a crowded primary by a wide margin and will take on Donovan in the general election, attempting to swing the lone New York City House seat in GOP hands.

In other notable congressional primary results around the city and state (many incumbents were unchallenged in the primary, some faced only nominal competition):

Perry Gershon won the Democratic primary to earn the chance to face incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in Congressional District 1.

Liuba Grechen Shirley won the Democratic primary to earn the chance to face incumbent Republican Rep. Peter King in Congressional District 2.

Antonio Delgado won a crowded Democratic primary to earn the chance to face incumbent Republican Rep. John Faso in Congressional District 19.

Tedra Cobb won a crowded Democratic primary to earn the chance to face incumbent Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik in Congressional District 21.

Dana Balter won the Democratic primary to earn the chance to face incumbent Republican Rep. John Katko in Congressional District 24.

Assemblymember Joseph Morelle won the Democratic primary to earn the chance to face incumbent Republican Jim Maxwell in Congressional District 25, a seat vacated when Rep. Louise Slaughter passed away earlier this year.

These results now largely set the stage for the general elections for Congress in New York, with all 27 House seas on the ballot and one U.S. Senate seat -- where Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is facing Republican challenger Chele Farley.

State-level primaries, including for all the seats in the state Legislature and the four state-wide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general will be September 13.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Ocasio-Cortez Upsets Crowley, Donovan Defeats Grimm & Other 2018 New York Congressional Primary Results Tue, 26 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000