In Tuesday’s primary, four New York Democrats face challenges on their left

US Representative Joseph Crowley has been working on his Spanish. Last week, as the fourth-ranking member of the House Democratic leadership crisscrossed his district, he peppered sentences with “de nada” and “gracias.”

He talked about how his own kids were learning Spanish in school. During a Spanish lesson at a Bronx senior center, he tried out a phrase: “Su apoyo para mi es muy importante.”

“Your support for me is very important,” the teacher translated.

Crowley, who has represented parts of the Bronx and Queens in Congress since 1999, has been easily reelected in the past by voters who do not always look like him. Just 45 percent of the 14th District’s residents are white; just 54 percent were born in the United States. This year, however, he and other veteran House members are facing Democratic challenges fueled by both changing demographics and the residue of intraparty feuds dating to the 2016 presidential campaign.

That has left the lawmaker, an Irish American who was once arrested at an immigration reform rally, practicing his Spanish and portraying himself as the only candidate who can take the fight right to President Trump.

In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Crowley will face Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a 28-year-old activist whose campaign has less than one-tenth as much money as Crowley’s but is competitive in organization and hype.

“I think I’ll actually win the Latino vote in this district, quite frankly, because they know me,” Crowley said as a staff member drove him from the Pelham neighborhood of the Bronx to Corona, a Latino hub in Queens. He pointed to a famous local restaurant, Tortilleria Nixtamal.

Three other candidate are fighting for their careers also in New York:

  • Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who was first elected in 1992, is facing Suraj Patel, a 34-year-old hotel executive who argues that the wealthiest district in America needs “new blood.”
  • Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, who won her Brooklyn seat in 2006, is being challenged by Adem Bunkeddeko, the Harvard ­University-educated ­son of Ugandan war refugees.
  • Rep. Eliot L. Engel, who arrived in Washington at the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, has spent $1.3 million to fend off academic and businessman Jonathan Lewis — who entered the race only three months ago.

Some within the democratic ranks are very upset with these challenges to sitting US reps but to me it’s always healthy to have competition. Keeps you fighting for the people not the greedy Wall Street barons who pay Lobbyist that buy favors in DC. Our votes should matter not only on election day but each day your representative sits on committees or performing floor votes. Our interest should be utmost in their decision making.

After Clinton’s November 2016 defeat, her allies shifted to the left, closer to the party’s activist base.

Crowley became the first member of the House Democratic leadership to endorse legislation that would transform Medicare into single-payer health care; Maloney revived her fight for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. And last week, both of them joined immigration protests outside of detention centers, with Crowley fainting in the heat of a rally in Washington.

That has not appeased the younger and more liberal candidates. On Sunday, Patel held a cookout at a Queens park, roaming from barbecue to barbecue to meet voters. A Maloney volunteer waited at the entrance of the park, handing out her literature and describing Maloney’s visit to a federal immigration facility that day. Patel rolled his eyes.

“She’s such a Johnny-come-lately on this,” he said, as he handed buttons reading “new blood” and fingernail decals decorated with a picture of his face. “I was the first candidate to call for the abolition of” Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Maloney has hit back at Patel by questioning his sincerity, attacking his 2016 residence in Indiana, where his family owns a hotel chain, and highlighting his use of general election donations to fund a flashy primary campaign. “He says he’s an NYU ethics professor, but he doesn’t seem to care about ethics,” she said.

But it had been a struggle, she said, to advertise the work done in Congress by Democrats who have not held a majority since 2011. In interviews last Monday, she rattled off the bills she had co-sponsored or passed, from the City Council to Congress. She had been elected in a swing seat, turned into a safe seat, and was now being told that a safe seat needed to go to someone younger and more brash.

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