Whether building a consensus as Chair of the Congressional Democratic Caucus – the fourth highest ranking position in the House Democratic leadership – or playing acoustic guitar in a pickup band with local constituents, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley is a straight shooter with the proven ability to work with folks to get things accomplished.
But while Crowley’s leadership in Washington as a counterweight to the Trump Administration is more crucial than ever, it is his role as Queens County Democratic Party Chair that is most in the local news now as the New York City Council prepares to replace term-limited Melissa Mark-Viverito with a new speaker in the new coming term.
Sources close to the Queens County Democratic Party say that the Speaker’s race has pretty much boiled down to three Council Members – Corey Johnson and Mark Levine [both from Manhattan] and Robert Cornegy Jr. [Brooklyn]. Ultimately it will come down to one.
Part of Crowley’s influence is due to his 14th Congressional District straddling both Queens and the Bronx. The Queens portion includes the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona and Woodside. The Bronx portion of the district includes the neighborhoods of Morris Park, Parkchester, Pelham Bay, and Throgs Neck as well as City Island.
It is forging an aliance between the Democratic powers that be that would most gives Crowley the ability to muster the 26 City Council majority vote to pick the next speaker.
On the Brooklyn side, a Crowley spokesperson acknowledged he’s not interested in speaking with Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio about the Speaker’s race or anything else. “Joe Crowley has no interest in working with Frank Seddio,” said the spokesperson.
That said, Crowley is seeking out and working with Brooklyn’s Congressional delegation, and in particular, U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose 8th Congressional District straddles both Brooklyn and Queens. This includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Mill Basin and Coney Island in Brooklyn; and South Ozone Park and Howard Beach in Queens.
Like Crowley, Jeffries is a consensus builder, and also like Crowley, he is a high-ranking member of the Congressional Democratic Caucus, being co-chair of the House Democratic Policy & Communications Committee.
Crowley also didn’t dismiss the idea that he has an eye on one day replacing current Congressional Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
“Ultimately it’s up to the Democratic Caucus to decide. There’s a lot of great talent in the caucus and at some point there will be a change. Much of any changes rides on how well we do in the 2018 elections,” said Crowley.
Crowley is also hopeful that Democrats will gain a lot of ground in the coming midterm elections as the Republicans currently hold a 240 to 194 majority in the House with one vacancy. He also disputes the notion that the Democratic Party is in disarray following the 2016 Presidential election, which saw Democrats lose the White House as well as the Senate Majority and many seats in state legislative races.
“I think the divide [among Democrats] is much less substantial than among Republicans,” said Crowley, noting the Republicans inability to foster enough votes to pass any legislation through both the House and Senate and the current GOP tax bill might not make it through the Senate.
Speaking of the White House, Crowley said while both he and President Donald Trump come from Queens they grew up on different sides of the Long Island Expressway with him being from Woodside and Trump from Forest Hills.
“I never had a relationship with him [Trump]. I know at some point I’ll have to deal with him directly, but his recent announcement on ending TPS (Temporary Protected Status for displaced immigrants) attacked my constituency directly. My mother was an immigrant and I have an incredible affinity for immigrants,” said Crowley.
It is this affinity for immigrants and growing up as an Irish-American in the culturally diverse neighborhood of Woodside in the 1980’s is also what Crowley loves about Queens.
“My district is the most diverse in the country. You have every walk of life. It’s in the music and the food culture, and in these communities everyone gets along. You have the largest Greek community in Astoria and they get along with the Turks in Sunnyside. We’re the new Ellis Island, creating New Americans,” said Crowley.
And from Queens College to working in his family’s business to serving first in the state assembly and now Congress, Crowley, now a married man with two young children, sees his role in politics and government more clearly.
“My judgment is needed now more than ever. I’m in my zone , as they say. My moment to live in politics is right now.”