Rep. Joseph Crowley (D)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: March 16, 1962, Elmhurst, NY .
Education: C.U.N.Y. Queens College, B.A. 1985.
Family: Married (Kasey); 3 children.
Elected office: NY Assembly, 1986-98.
The congressman from the 7th District is Joseph Crowley, a Democrat elected in 1998. He grew up in Woodside, where his family was involved in politics. His Uncle Walter Crowley was elected to the New York City Council in 1984. When he died in 1985, Joseph Crowley wanted to succeed him, though he was only 23. But Tom Manton, the boss of the efficient Queens County Democratic Party, chose his chief of staff instead. The following year, Assemblyman Ralph Goldstein from Elmhurst died. Fresh from Queens College, Crowley ran and won, with support from Manton. Crowley was interested in Irish affairs and sponsored the law that requires public school students to be taught about the Irish potato famine. He played guitar and sang tenor with the Budget Blues Boys, a group of assemblymen who performed on cold Albany nights. When political boss Manton decided it was time for Crowley to go to Congress, he went.
|Joseph Crowley (D-WF)||118,459||(85%)||($1,729,732)|
|William Britt (R-C)||21,477||(15%)|
|Joseph Crowley (D-WF)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (84%), 2004 (81%), 2002 (73%), 2000 (72%), 1998 (69%)
In 1998, Manton was the 7th District incumbent. He filed for re-election by the July 16 deadline. Then at 11 a.m. on July 21, he convened a meeting of Queens Democratic committeemen, announced that he was retiring, and got them to vote in Crowley as the Democratic nominee. Other potential candidates were not notified beforehand and were naturally miffed but resigned to reality. Manton argued that Crowley, at 36, was in a position to accumulate seniority and power in Washington. Crowley was delighted. “What you’re hearing is not so much about the process, but sour grapes. What happened here is simply that I was offered an ice cream cone, and I took it.” His Republican opponent had no money and no chance. Crowley won in November, 69%-26%.
Once elected, Crowley voted as a centrist Democrat and demonstrated leadership ambition. He was the freshman Democrats’ class president that year. Over time, he changed his position from opposing abortion rights to favoring them, a stance in line with the party position. He now has a seat on the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, where he is an ally of Chairman Charles Rangel of New York. His local priorities include aid for city hospitals and adjusting the alternative minimum tax to reduce the number of middle-income taxpayers who are forced to pay it.
An active participant in leadership activities, Crowley has had setbacks in seeking a top post. In 2005, he sought the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, highlighting his fundraising connections to New York’s financial community. But as an ally of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, he was on the wrong side of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has competed with Hoyer to move up the leadership ladder. The DCCC appointment went to Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who led Democrats to victory in the next election in 2006. Crowley was named to lead the DCCC’s Business Council, a key fundraising post. After that election, Crowley sought to move up to vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus. On the first ballot, he received the most votes, 79. John Larson of Connecticut, a Pelosi ally, got the next highest number, 66, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, another Pelosi ally, was eliminated when she came in third. But on the second ballot, the Schakowsky-Pelosi voters moved to Larson rather than to Crowley, and Larson prevailed, 116-87. Crowley remained a team player and did some bridge-building with Pelosi and her allies. When the caucus vice chairmanship opened again after the 2008 election, he expressed interest but deferred when Pelosi backed Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.
The September 11 attacks hit Crowley especially hard as a member of Congress. His district lost many local firefighters, including his first cousin, who was a battalion chief. He won passage of an amendment to issue the Public Safety Officers Medal of Valor to the 414 first responders who died on September 11. He fought to change funding formulas for homeland security, which he said shortchanged New York. In June 2007, the House passed his amendment to restore $50 million for homeland-security funding in high-threat urban areas. On another issue with local interest, Crowley was an active proponent of the U.S.-India agreement on nuclear energy, which Congress approved in October 2008. It allows India to gain U.S. expertise and nuclear fuel to meet its rapidly rising energy needs in exchange for opening its nuclear facilities to international inspections. There is a sizable community of Indian-Americans in Queens, many of whom are foreign-born. During the George W. Bush administration, Crowley worked with Republicans on behalf of business interests to gain approval of bilateral free-trade agreements, earning praise from GOP Whip Roy Blunt for helping to secure Democratic votes.
Crowley has not faced serious opposition at election time. After the 2000 census, redistricting radically changed his constituency. In the old district, Queens cast 74% of the votes. Now the Bronx casts 62% (Crowley remains a Mets fan, though). He has been a leader in the delegation’s efforts to help Democrats win more House seats from New York by assisting the successful campaigns of Tim Bishop in Suffolk County in 2002, Brian Higgins for an open Buffalo-area seat in 2004, and Michael Arcuri in his bid for the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert in 2006. After Manton died in July 2006, Crowley became Queens Democratic chairman.