New York’s Top House Dem Launches Bid to Become Caucus Chair

Joseph Crowley delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention.

Joseph Crowley delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Queens Congressman Joseph Crowley, the fifth-ranked Democrat in the House of Representatives, announced his bid today to replace Democratic Caucus Chair Xavier Becerra—and cited his blue collar outer borough roots among his credentials.

In a letter sent to his peers on the Hill and shared with the press, the current vice chairman of the Democratic conference cited the stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton to fellow Queens native Donald Trump, and the coinciding failure of their party to capture the Senate. Crowley asserted in the missive that this showed an immediate need for new leadership and an effort to connect with the lower-middle-class voters who handed Trump his decisive victories in the Midwest—and asserted his own background, as the son of a cop, gave him the necessary credibility.

“The American people sent us a message, and they expect us to respond. We need to start now,” said Crowley. “I grew up in working-class Queens, New York—only a few miles away from where Donald Trump himself grew up, yet very much on the other side of the tracks. Mr. Trump and I certainly experienced two very different upbringings, and chose two very different paths in life.”

“We need to think differently about how to make sure that all Americans realize our party includes them, and that it looks out for them,” he continued

The congressman, first elected in 2000, also indicated he could effectively represent the minority voters who make up a growing portion of the Democratic base. For proof, he pointed to his own district, which has become increasingly Hispanic over the past decade.

“My district is one of the most diverse places in the nation, but what my constituents all have in common is a desire to ensure a better life for themselves and their children. For us to help them make that dream a reality, we need to make sure that all of our communities feel we are listening to them, hearing their voices, and gaining a better understanding of their struggles,” Crowley wrote. “I believe I can help build bridges to all Americans.”

The letter makes no mention of Becerra, a Latino from California, who will be term-limited from the post in next year’s session.

“We are the party of the people, the party that is welcoming to all,” Crowley concluded. “I hope you will provide me with the opportunity to serve as your Caucus Chair so I can help to ensure that our message is being spread to every community and every American. Thank you.

Crowley also serves as chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, making him a major player in state and city politics.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a Brooklynite, yesterday became the Democratic minority leader in the other half of the Capitol Building.

Crowley’s announcement coincided with Ohio Congressman Timothy Ryan launch of his bid to replace Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Ryan’s district includes traditional Democratic strongholds like Akron and Youngstown where Clinton underperformed President Barack Obama’s totals in 2012.

Read the letter in full below:

Dear Democratic Colleague,

November 8th was a difficult day for our country, our party, and our caucus. The American people sent us a message, and they expect us to respond. We need to start now—not wait two years or four years, and I am glad that as a caucus we have started the conversations that we need to have. It is evident that a great portion of voters do not believe we share their same vision for America, and so as we move forward, our caucus must be focused on developing policies and messages that better resonate with the American people. I have been heartened to hear so many voices in our caucus sharing ideas on how we can do better, and I deeply appreciate what you all have expressed to me and to our broader caucus. I want to continue to work with you all in helping to chart this path forward for our caucus, and that is why I am seeking your support to serve as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

I have been incredibly privileged to serve as Vice Chair of the Caucus for the past four years, and I have made it a priority to listen to, and to really hear, our members and their thoughts and concerns. What’s clear is that no single individual will be able to lead us back into the majority. What we need is a truly collaborative effort. I am committed to creating an inclusive environment within our caucus, which means broadening beyond the usual messengers and building our strategies and our goals from the ground up.

We all agree that Democrats are the party with a vision and that we are the ones working on behalf of the American people. Our challenge now is to better connect with voters—in this election, they were not telling us what they saw on social media or read in the news, but how they feel. Getting in touch with American voters will require focusing on more than polls and fundraising records. We need to think differently about how to make sure that all Americans realize our party includes them, and that it looks out for them.

I grew up in working-class Queens, New York—only a few miles away from where Donald Trump himself grew up, yet very much on the other side of the tracks. Mr. Trump and I certainly experienced two very different upbringings, and chose two very different paths in life. I grew up the son of an immigrant mother and a New York City policeman father in a community sustained by working-class and, in many cases, first-generation Americans. It’s a community populated by firefighters, teachers, construction workers, small-business owners, and new immigrants. They all feel uncertain about their economic futures, like many Americans across the country.

My district is one of the most diverse places in the nation, but what my constituents all have in common is a desire to ensure a better life for themselves and their children. For us to help them make that dream a reality, we need to make sure that all of our communities feel we are listening to them, hearing their voices, and gaining a better understanding of their struggles. It is the only way we will be able to show the American people we are on their side and bring them back to us. I believe I can help build bridges to all Americans.

This is a critical time for our party and our caucus. We need independent messengers who can go toe-to-toe with a President Trump and stand up for Americans who feel left behind—and who will certainly be left behind by Republican attempts to end Medicare and Social Security, offer tax breaks for the rich, and gut investments in job training and education. I have always fought against bullies, and that’s how we need to approach the biggest bully of all for the next four years. It is more important than ever that we keep fighting – against damaging Republican attempts to roll back all the good work we did with President Obama, but also for policies that ensure good jobs for all Americans and strengthen working families. I am confident that our caucus has the tools and the talent to make our case to the American people and regain their hearts and minds.

What I love about our caucus—what makes me proud every single day—is the genuine diversity of ideas, backgrounds, and experiences that we all contribute. I want to ensure that the Democratic Caucus is a place for members to come together and not just share their thoughts, but to also engage, inspire, and yes, challenge one another. As Vice Chair, I deeply appreciated the chance to reach out to all our members, and I focused on creating initiatives like Caucus on Your Corner to give members a platform to share good ideas that work. I look forward to the opportunity to build on those efforts as Caucus Chair.

I am proud to be a Democrat. We are the party of the people, the party that is welcoming to all. I hope you will provide me with the opportunity to serve as your Caucus Chair so I can help to ensure that our message is being spread to every community and every American. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Joseph Crowley

Updated to correct an earlier error which indicated Crowley was challenging Pelosi.

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