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‘This loss is on me’: Crowley tries to calm tensions in first interview since primary shocker

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference on Feb. 28, 2017.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference on Feb. 28, 2017. (Bill Clark/AP)
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Rep. Joseph Crowley, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, took personal blame for his shocking primary loss last month and sought to defuse tensions within his party on Sunday in his first extended interview since the election.

“This loss is on me,” said Crowley (N.Y.), who lost his bid for renomination for an 11th term on June 26 to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “I did not do as I preach. You know, I talk about all politics being local. I didn’t remind folks of my accomplishments. I didn’t talk about what I had done to help people in my district . . . I just took that for granted, I think.”

Crowley spoke on CBS’s “Face the Nation” three days after an unusual Twitter spat with Ocasio-Cortez made clear that hostilities had not yet ceased between the 56-year-old Queens party boss and the 28-year-old former bartender who embraced a left-wing platform and accused Crowley and national Democrats of not paying enough attention to the needs of minorities and the working class.

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In a Thursday tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said Crowley had “stood me up” for scheduled concession calls and accused him of seeking to mount a third-party challenge to keep his seat in November.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress Nov. 6, after ousting 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in the primaries. (Video: Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

Responding directly on Twitter, Crowley blamed Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign for the failed calls and said “the race is over.” His showing last month entitled Crowley to run as nominee of the Working Families Party, and vacating the party’s line on the November ballot would entail either changing his address or accepting nomination for another office.

Though his family lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, Crowley said that he had no plans formally to move out of New York and that the latter would amount to “election fraud.”

Crowley did not directly address the spat on Sunday but urged his critics to avoid “character assassination.”

“What we really need to do is take that energy that’s been focused in terms of internal bouts and focus that on Republicans and win seats that Republicans hold today if we really want to make a difference,” he said. “I do think we need to focus now on winning seats in November and ensuring that Democrats are in control for the sake of our country, quite frankly.”

In public dust-up, Ocasio-Cortez questions Crowley’s pledge of support in New York congressional race

While Crowley said he took personal responsibility for his loss, he pointed to factors that he said could explain it — running as a man in what he called a “year of the woman” and a new New York state election schedule that moved congressional primaries from early September to late June, putting them on a separate schedule from state and local races.

“But, you know, I don’t think we can really go back and re-litigate that aspect of it,” he said. “We’re all playing by the same rules, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and I played by the same rules.”

Host Margaret Brennan also asked Crowley whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ought to remain party leader in the next Congress. Crowley said that decision would be in the hands of the next Congress — but he suggested that she would have a hard time retaining power if Democrats do not retake the House majority.

“If we win the House back, Nancy will have a very strong case for holding on to the speakership,” he said. “If not, then maybe other issues then come to the fore at that point.”

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