Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) said last Friday that Queens members of the Independent Democratic Conference have about three months left to come back to the mainline Democrats, or they will “suffer the consequences.”
“They have until April to come back, or they will face a head-on primary by everyone,” Crowley, chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, told the Chronicle’s editorial board. “But I’m encouraging them to come back before that.”
The IDC is a group of eight breakaway Democrats who have shared power with Senate Republicans since 2011.
There are two members from Queens — state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
A spokesman for Peralta said in a statement, "Senator Peralta is focused on doing his job to make sure the people in his district are protected from congressional changes to the tax law, with potential cuts to health care, education and to address the changes due to the removal of state tax exemptions. As he already made clear, he supports the plan already in place for all Democrats to work together."
A spokesman for Avella did not return a request for comment.
The congressman believes the IDC senators will face challengers.
“I think they’re going to have a primary by disgruntled Democrats within Queens County, and I think that’s reflected around the city as well,” he said.
But whether those candidates will be backed by the party machine and state and labor leaders is up to the incumbents, Crowley said.
“If [Peralta] comes back then, we’ve agreed that he would have the support of the apparatus,” he said. “If he comes back earlier, that I think is better for him ... if he doesn’t, he will have a primary sanctioned by me and the state apparatus, as well as working with our friends in labor.”
Jackson Heights resident Jessica Ramos, a former mayoral aide, has filed to primary Peralta and 17-year-old Tahseen Chowdhury, who will turn 18 in September, plans to run as well. Crowley did not directly answer a question on if he’d back a specific candidate. At press time, nobody had filed to run against Avella.
The Bayside senator joined the IDC in 2013, and the next year was unsuccessfully challenged by former city Comptroller John Liu, who was supported by Crowley.
Peralta switched to the group in January 2017, and faced major backlash from his constituents — some of whom called him “worse than Trump” at a town hall meeting he held to explain his decision.
For Crowley, their decision to join the IDC was, in effect, turning their back on those who helped them get elected.
“It’s not as if Jose Peralta came out of nowhere and just became a senator,” he said. “It’s not like Tony Avella popped out of thin air and became a senator. Tony Avella was encouraged to do that by the Queens County Democratic Party in conjunction with the teachers’ union and other unions that made a difference in that election.
“There are others who were engaged with, who were invested in that,” he continued, “and when that’s betrayed by supporting Republicans, that’s meaningful.”
Peralta, and others, have argued a benefit to being in the IDC is having the ability to bring financial resources back to the district — unlike those in the Senate minority.
Crowley called the funds “blood money.”
“It’s money to enforce a Republican Senate in the state,” he said. “I think it’s wrong for them to have done that.”