Rep. Joe Crowley, left, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez // photos courtesy House.gov and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Election Law Quirk Holds Crowley Captive to WFP Party Line

By David Brand

The race for the 14th Congressional District resumed with a tweet.

On Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District, accused Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) of both blowing off her phone calls and mounting a third-party challenge via the Working Families Party line.

“[Crowley] stated on live TV that he would absolutely support my candidacy,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Instead, he’s stood me up for all 3 scheduled concession calls. Now, he’s mounting a 3rd party challenge against me and the Democratic Party- and against the will of [the Working Families Party].”

The WFP originally endorsed Crowley but switched its allegiance to Ocasio-Cortez when she won the primary. Crowley also said he would give Ocasio-Cortez his full support.

The tweet received nationwide media coverage and prompted a response from Crowley, who said Ocasio-Cortez was the one missing his phone calls.

“Alexandria, the race is over and Democrats need to come together. I’ve made my support for you clear and the fact that I’m not running,” Crowley said on Twitter. “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.”

All squabbles aside, the exchange did highlight a bizarre quirk in New York State election law.

Crowley returned to Twitter to explain that the alleged “third-party challenge” was a misunderstanding based on the reality that once the ballots are printed, it is not so easy to erase your own name

In fact, candidates only have four ways to back out a race after the April deadline. They can either move out-of-state, get arrested, run for another office or die.

Since two of those options — incarceration or death — are pretty unpleasant, the WFP suggested Crowley run for another office, one he has no chance of winning.

“I respect Congressman Crowley’s concerns, but there are common, straightforward and legal ways to remove candidates from the ballot in cases like this,” WFP counsel Alex Rabb said in a statement. “There are offices around the state for which the Congressmember could be nominated. 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.”

A New York Times columnist suggested Crowley run for county clerk in a distant Upstate region, for example.

Crowley said he refuses to run for another office because he considers that election fraud.

That leaves Crowley with one final option to get off the ballot in Queens and the Bronx. He could register to vote Virginia, where he resides while serving in the House.

But the lifelong New Yorker said he has no intention to leave Queens — or this earth — anytime soon.

“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,” Crowley said.

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