Depending on your point of view, there’s a little known upside to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Queens Democratic Congressman and county chairman Joe Crowley that is unrelated to empowering women, socialism, or the direction of the Democratic Party.
Rather her victory, for now, is a win for Queens voters, who just might be able to vote in a straight-up election for their next district attorney rather than having the borough’s Democratic bosses select the candidate as their Bronx counterparts did in 2015. A week after DA Robert Johnson won his primary three years ago, he resigned to seek a prearranged Democratic Party judgeship. Because of state law, the timing of his resignation allowed Bronx party leaders — rather than voters — to choose Darcel Clark as his replacement on the November ballot, allowing her a virtually uncontested race.
A potentially similar situation existed in Queens. Before Crowley’s defeat, says a Queens insider, Crowley’s stooges — not Crowley himself — were pressuring longtime Queens DA Richard Brown to consider retiring so Crowley and Queens Democratic bosses could select his successor, who would then run as the party’s candidate in a future primary. With Crowley’s defeat and Ocasio-Cortez’s win, however, any political pressure on Brown has faded to political noise.
Asked whether he had been pressured to retire, Brown, who is 86 and has health issues, said in an interview: “Nobody’s pressing me.” He added that any decision to retire is his alone. “I love this job,” he said, adding that he planned to serve the final two years of his term, and even mentioned running again, unlikely as that seems.
Respected in the borough, Brown, a former appellate judge who’s been DA since 1991, is the first DA in decades to have brought professionalism and integrity to the Queens office.
Despite his age and health issues, Brown is in the office daily at 7:30 a.m., he says. A judge who knows him says: “Nobody questions his mental fitness. He’ll stay as long as he wants to.”
Indeed, there’s precedent for sticking around. Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau served from 1975 to 2009 until he was nearly 90, then hand-picked his successor, Cyrus Vance, who won the Democratic primary.