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Upset of Democratic House leader points to party divisions

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — As Donald Trump’s party came together, a 28-year-old liberal activist ousted top House Democrat Joe Crowley in the president’s hometown Tuesday night, a stunning defeat that suddenly forced Democrats to confront their own internal divisions.

Crowley, the No. 4 House Democrat and until Tuesday considered a possible candidate to replace Nancy Pelosi as leader, becomes the first Democratic incumbent to fall this primary season. He was beaten by underfunded challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders organizer who caught fire with the party’s left wing.

Crowley’s loss echoed across the political world, sending the unmistakable message that divisions between the Democratic Party’s pragmatic and more liberal wings may be widening heading into the high-stakes November midterm elections. It also exposed a generational divide among Democrats still struggling with their identity in the Trump era.

“The community is ready for a movement of economic and social justice. That is what we tried to deliver,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with The Associated Press. Born in the Bronx to a mother from Puerto Rico and a father who died in 2008, she said she knew she could connect with the district, which includes Queens and part of the Bronx.

“I live in this community. I organized in this community. I felt the absence of the incumbent. I knew he didn’t have a strong presence.”

Trump, on social media at least, seemed equally excited about Crowley’s defeat.

“Perhaps he should have been nicer, and more respectful, to his President!” Trump tweeted, oddly taking credit for a victory by a candidate more liberal than Crowley. He added: “The Democrats are in Turmoil!”

All in all, Trump had reason to celebrate Tuesday night as all three of his endorsed candidates survived primary challenges that could have embarrassed him and the party.

Those included New York Rep. Dan Donovan, who defeated convicted felon Michael Grimm in New York City’s only Republican stronghold, and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who once branded Trump “a fraud” but has warmed to the president in the past two years.

Yet none of the day’s contests mattered more to Trump than the one in South Carolina.

Gov. Henry McMaster, one of the president’s earliest and strongest supporters, survived an unusually tough challenge from a political newcomer, self-made Republican millionaire John Warren.