New York Rep. Joe Crowley, a Democratic giant toppled in a surprise primary this summer, said the problem with his campaign was a disconnect with millennial voters.
Crowley, once seen as having the potential to be the next Democratic leader in the House, lost in a shocking primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then a little-known contender whose win against Crowley launched her into the progressive spotlight. She is projected to win the safely Democratic district in November.
“I think as people analyze this they’ll see that I won the African American vote by over 2 to 1; we basically split the Latino vote. It really was millennial votes — people that were not familiar with who I was,” Crowley said in an interview on BuzzFeed News’ Profile.
“I failed to really communicate my accomplishments and what I had done, especially out of 27,000 voters in the primary, 11,000 who had never voted before in the district. So it was really folks who were coming in from Manhattan, from Brooklyn, who could no longer afford to live there,” Crowley told Profile guest host David Mack. “This millennial movement ... I think is great for Queens and great for the city. And I actually think it bodes well for our party, as well, in terms of the excitement, I think is great.”
At 28 years old, Ocasio-Cortez is a millennial herself. Her win forced Democratic House members to reckon with their aging leadership, which has already been in question, particularly among young and progressive members of the party.
In the interview, Crowley insisted he did not underestimate Ocasio-Cortez but lamented not engaging directly with her earlier in the campaign.
“I think what we had was a very robust campaign. ... What I would suggest is this: She ran a very effective campaign. And I ran a very traditional campaign, an incumbent campaign,” Crowley said. “And I would say this, the loss is on me. I accept this. You know, the shortcomings, we had a strategy that didn't work. And hers did. And I congratulate her for that as well.”
Crowley also suggested low turnout — affected by the primary being on the last day of school — also played a role in his loss. “It was primarily white millennials that I was not connecting, I think, with,” Crowley said.
Ocasio-Cortez has had a publicly tense relationship with Crowley, and she has drawn some criticism from some House Democrats for her combative approach. But Crowley said the two have spoken since and had a “nice conversation.”
He offered his advice as a member of Congress: “It's collaborative, it's working together.”
“I think how you're most effective is when you’re helping others, and they try to help you.”