The insanity of New York election law spilled out into a public tit-for-tat on Thursday morning, as insurgent Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused her former primary opponent Rep. Joe Crowley of “mounting a 3rd party challenge” after her stunning defeat of the powerful House Democrat little more than two weeks ago.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Crowley “stood me up for all 3 scheduled concession calls” and linked to a New York Times article reporting that Crowley’s campaign declined to relinquish the Working Families Party line on the November ballot. He had secured the party’s endorsement in the primary and according to the article, WFP’s state director Bill Lipton asked that he vacate it after his stunning major-party defeat. The campaign allegedly did not oblige.
“Joe Crowley is a Democrat. He’s made clear he is not running for Congress and supports the Democratic nominee in NY-14,” a campaign spokesperson told the Times.
Lipton, in a statement to The Daily Beast, said that he had hoped Crowley would switch his residency in order to fix this problem.
"It is disappointing that Crowley has refused to vacate the Working Families Party ballot line," he said. "He chose not to show Ocasio-Cortez and the WFP respect by allowing us to put Ocasio-Cortez on our ballot line. WFP is giving all we have to electing Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive insurgents all across the nation. The only remaining way for Crowley to do the right thing is to switch his residency to Virginia, where his family resides and his children already go to school. It would fix the problem he created in an instant. Queens County Democrats practically wrote the book on election law so it's hard to imagine they don't know that there are standard procedures to remove a candidate from the ballot that have been approved by the New York State Court of Appeals."
In an interview with The Daily Beast, a Crowley campaign spokesperson requesting to speak on background, accused Ocasio-Cortez of misrepresenting the attempts to connect for a concession call.
"She's lying and that's wrong and it's beneath the office she's about to serve," the spokesperson said. "Her team knows that this is not true and she knows that this is not true."
The spokesperson added that WFP had talked to Crowley about running for a county clerk position in upstate New York, but that he found that to be "unethical and wrong," and that it could threaten another prospective Democrat in such a race.
"He's supporting Ocasio-Cortez," the spokesperson went on to say. "This is not a shadow campaign. We're shutting down our campaign operation."
According to Alex Rabb, an attorney for WFP, it would be legal for Crowley to make such a maneuver.
“There are offices around the state for which the Congress-member could be nominated," he said in a statement. "The New York State Court of Appeals has found that it is standard for parties to substitute candidates after a primary election, and that the practice does not violate the letter or the spirit of the law. I respect Congressman Crowley’s concerns, but there are common, straightforward and legal ways to remove candidates from the ballot in cases like this.”
The soon-to-be-former congressman did already back Ocasio-Cortez in the aftermath of his primary defeat, even playing Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run in dedication to her accomplishment.
“So much for ‘Born to Run,’” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday, referencing that moment.
Crowley responded by saying that he had, in fact, attempted to reach out to Ocasio-Cortez, but that it was her campaign who had not facilitated the conversation.
“Alexandria, the race is over and Democrats need to come together,” he tweeted from his personal account. “I’ve made my support for you clear and the fact that I’m not running. We’ve scheduled phone calls and your team has not followed through. I’d like to connect but I’m not willing to air grievances on Twitter.”
In regards to the Working Families Party line, Crowley contended that he was essentially stuck with it and suggested that shirking it would amount to “election fraud.”
“Lots questions about WFP line,” he wrote. “Was honored to have their support. I’m not running. For record you can only be removed from the ballot if 1) you move out of NY; 2) die; 3) be convicted of a crime; 4) accept a nomination for another office (in a place I don’t live).”
Crowley added: “I don’t plan on moving out of New York, have a clean record, hope God’s will is that I don’t die, and won’t commit what I honestly believe to be election fraud.”
The Ocasio-Cortez campaign did not immediately return a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
"Joe is happy to meet with her," the Crowley spokesperson said. "It is fundamentally wrong to lie about what's happening for politically craven reasons."
Update, 1:23 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comment from The Working Families Party.