US Representative Joe Crowley, who just two weeks ago lost the Democratic Party nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional district to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in dramatic fashion, looks set to remain on the November ballot as the candidate for the Working Families Party.
The Working Families Party’s unsuccessful gamble
Created to take advantage of New York’s highly unusual system of fusion voting, the Working Families Party typically endorses progressive Democrats, who in turn benefit from appearing on the WFP’s New York ballot line.
Occasionally the WFP will run (or threaten to run) its own candidate against a mainstream Democratic candidate. Like the Conservative Party of New York State (a minor party which holds a similar position in relation to the Republicans) the WFP’s presence pressures Democrats from running too far to the center and risking a third party challenge.
Before the June 26th Democratic primary, the WFP offered its ballot line to Representative Joe Crowley. This was despite the candidacy of the much more progressive challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As a “Democratic Socialist,” Ocasio-Cortez is pretty much a perfect match for the WFP ideologically, but like most of America they did not foresee her victory over Crowley. The WFP took the pragmatic decision to back the likely winner of the Democratic nomination and their gamble failed. So now there is a huge problem.
New York’s election laws do not allow the WFP to remove Crowley from its ballot line. Nor is Crowley allowed to simply remove himself. The only option is for Crowley to somehow make himself ineligible. Or die. Crowley (somewhat understandably) is reluctant to do this.
Joe Crowley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have a spat
Having achieved the most dramatic primary win of the season and become a national figure as a result, Ocasio-Cortez is nonplussed to find her former challenger still on the November ballot.
Tensions boiled over on Twitter yesterday when an ugly exchange erupted between the two:
.@repjoecrowley stated on live TV that he would absolutely support my candidacy.
Instead, he’s stood me up for all 3 scheduled concession calls.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) July 12, 2018
Crowley replied, and eventually explained his continued presence on the WFP line with this tweet:
Lots questions about WFP line. Was honored to have their support. I’m not running. For record you can only be removed from the ballot if 1) you move out of NY; 2) die; 3) be convicted of a crime; 4) accept a nomination for another office (in a place I don’t live).
— Joe Crowley (@JoeCrowleyNY) July 12, 2018
The options for Joe Crowley and the WFP
Graciously putting aside dying or committing a crime as options, Ocasio-Cortez and the WFP still think Crowley should feel obligated to move his residency out of New York or accept another nomination from the party.
In a press release, the WFP New York director Bill Lipton said, “The only remaining way for Crowley to do the right thing is to switch his residency to Virginia, where his family resides and his children already go to school. It would fix the problem he created in an instant.”
Unfortunately for Lipton and the WFP, the idea that Joe Crowley can solve the problem by merely switching his residency is a false one. As Richard Winger of Ballot Access News points out, “The matter has already been litigated, both in New York and in Texas. A congressional candidate does not lose eligibility by being a resident of another state before the election.
“The only residence requirement for congress in the U.S. Constitution is residency as of election day,” Winger continued. “But ballots must be printed well before election day, so moving to another state would not make any candidate ineligible.”
This means the only way Joe Crowley can be removed from the ballot is for him to accept a WFP nomination for an office he has no desire to run for, or intention to serve in if elected. Not without reason, Crowley considers doing this to be election fraud.
Live by fusion voting, die by fusion voting
Advocates of fusion voting say it is a way for voters to support parties outside the Republican-Democrat duopoly, but without “wasting” their vote. Whether it is a good idea or not, it certainly creates complications.
As a party that concentrates its activities in states that allow fusion voting, the Working Families Party are not in the strongest of positions to complain when it goes wrong. If anything, the WFP should be grateful it does not go wrong more often. In March it endorsed DuWayne Gregory in New York’s 2nd Congressional District over progressive candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley. Grechen Shirley won the primary, but Gregory is (unlike Crowley) not currently listed as a WFP-endorsed candidate. Presumably he has accepted a nomination for another office he does not want.
But, as in the case of Joe Crowley, relying on the goodwill of non-members to solve its problems is not a foolproof strategy. As long as the WFP resists endorsing candidates it agrees with and instead tries to predict who will win the Democratic nomination, expect this problem to continue.