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Cleaver: ‘There will be an insurgency’ in House Democratic caucus

Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver cautioned against reading too much into the stunning defeat Tuesday of 56-year-old Rep. Joe Crowley by political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, in New York`s Democratic primary. But Cleaver warned that change is coming to House Democratic leadership.

Crowley was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and was considered a possible future speaker. He lost to Ocasio-Cortez, a socialist with no institutional support from the Democratic Party.

Asked Wednesday whether Crowley`s exit could create an opening for someone to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cleaver said that opening was already there.

“There will be an insurgency. I just don’t know who’s leading it. But I assure you, I’m as certain of that as I am that today is Wednesday," he told reporters.

"We overthink some of the elections and we look for some kind of subliminal message from the voters, as if they’ve been meeting en masse, and I don’t think that happened," Cleaver said. "To me, this is very simple: Democrats do not historically come out in primaries. In New York, they’ve made it even more difficult for them to come out by separating the congressional races from the higher-profile state races, like governor and so forth. So I don’t think we should over-read it."

Cleaver said one lesson for incumbents from Crowley`s defeat is that they should put a "massive ground game" into primary races. "I think Crowley would probably admit that he didn’t," Cleaver said. "I understand he put money into television."

Two senior Democratic aides told McClatchy on Wednesday that Cleaver`s name has been floated as a possible replacement for Crowley as caucus chair. The vice chair job also could come open depending on how the leadership reshuffle works out.

Cleaver acknowledged he`s heard his name come up. "But I`ve told people I don`t want to be anybody," he said.

He said he wouldn`t serve even if asked.

"I know people assume that we’re being coy. I’m not," said Cleaver, a minister and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. "I’m being very very forceful and real, I have no interest. All I want is the chairmanship of the Housing administration subcommittee; that’s all I want in life."

Cleaver pointed to younger members as likely contenders for Crowley`s job, including New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond. California Rep. Linda Sanchez already has said she’s interested.

"There’s a few other people to have your eye on," Cleaver said. "We don’t need these caucus conflicts. … We’re trying to to win back the majority and if we win,we need to come out with an agenda not with fighting. ... That’s one of the reasons I don’t want to be in it."