Transcript: Rep. Joe Crowley on "Face the Nation," July 15, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Rep. Joe Crowley, Democrat of New York, that aired Sunday, July 15, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to take a closer look now: politics at home and the Democrats. New York Congressman Joe Crowley lost his primary race in a stunning upset to a political newcomer last month. He is we're- here with us today to talk about it. Congressman, it's good to have you on the show.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE CROWLEY:  Thank you, Margaret. Great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were the first House Democrat to lose a primary in 2018. It can't be good to hear that. But can you say- do you think your district was an anomaly or is there a bigger message to Democrats?

REP. CROWLEY: I think there are a number of factors that went into this loss and first and foremost let me say it's been a great honor. One of the greatest honors of my life to serve the people of the 14th congressional district. And this is on me. This loss is on me. I had wonderful volunteers, hundreds of them and a great campaign effort. And just sometimes you come up short. I do think and I want to congratulate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on this effective win. Her campaign was a very effective campaign and she deserves this win but I think there are a number of factors. I think the year of the woman, I think that's a fact that's playing into this and I like that for November. I think that's really good for us as a party. I think the timing of the primary itself not being the normal September back into June it really was an isolated primary in many respects. But as I said before I do want to take anything away from- from her win. This is a big win for her and for the future of our country as well and- and you know the loss I- I have to take the responsibility for that I did not do as I preach. You know, I talk about all politics being local. I- I didn't remind folks of my accomplishments. I didn't take what I had done to help people my district, how I help provide the votes to overturn gay marriage and to- to have gay marriage in New York state that we went from two to five in the Senate in New York State to 7 to 0. That was something that I worked with Governor Cuomo on making happen. I didn't talk about helping people in my district. And- and reminding people where I stood. I just took that for granted I think.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You talk about some of the bigger sort of themes or takeaways from this, but just about 12 percent of registered Democrats turned out to vote in this primary. That's pretty low.

REP. CROWLEY: I think the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So are we over reading it?

REP. CROWLEY: Well I think it goes back to again the timing of the primary itself. I think some people may have take it for granted that I've been around for a while and decided they'll get me in November so to speak, but I don't think we really go back and re-litigate that aspect of it. We all play by the same rules. OK. So Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and I play by the same rules. I do think that the turnout was low. I think it's more reflective again of some of the arcane- the arcane nature of New York state election law itself that may be contributing to this factor.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The winner here, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as you said 28 years old political newcomer here she's accused the Democratic Party at large of not taking the interests of people of color seriously, not paying much attention to working class communities. Do you think there's fair criticism in that?

REP. CROWLEY: I think it's always open to criticism in terms of policy. I think what we need to really steer away from is character assassination. And I think it's what we really to do is take that energy that's been focused in terms of internal bouts and focus that on the Republicans and win seats that Republicans hold today if we really want to make a difference. I think the Democratic caucus is a big tent party. It's reflective just look at our party take a picture of the people who represent the Democrats in the House and Republicans in the house it's night and day literally in terms of the number of minorities that are represented within the Democratic caucus. It's there. And so 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 I think the greatest threat to us is this president in the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If Democrats do take control, should Nancy Pelosi stay as leader?

REP. CROWLEY: I think that Nancy- when history looks back on Nancy Pelosi they will look at one of the smartest and hardest working speakers and leaders in the history of our country. She's in--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your loss made some Democrats question this.

REP. CROWLEY: --Well look, you know, I do think that that'll be up to the new Congress to decide who the next leader or speaker will- will be. If we win the House back, Nancy will have a very strong case for holding on to the speakership. If not there may be other issues that come to the fore at that point. But it's up to the next Congress- Democratic caucus to decide that fate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman it's good to have you on this show.

REP. CROWLEY: Thank you. Can I just say one thing? I love this country. I love it so much and I'm so proud to have represented my constituents. But I am very, very worried about the direction of this country. And I have a lot to be grateful for. It's given me a tremendous experience in life. But we need to win back the House to bring- to recognize this country once again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I can imagine you'll be working on that, as we go toward the races in November. We'll be back in just a moment with our panel.