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A Wall Street veteran is mounting a long-shot challenge to US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s June 25 Democratic primary, marking the first intra-party battle she’s faced in four years.

Martin W. Dolan, 66, who spent 30 years working for Jefferies Financial Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and other financial firms, formally registered a campaign committee this week to run against Ocasio-Cortez. He now begins a month-long sprint to gather the necessary signatures to land a spot on the ballot for the 14th congressional district, which includes parts of northern Queens and the Bronx.

Dolan said he’s running because the congresswoman, the 34-year-old standard-bearer for the left wing of the Democratic Party, is too progressive, even for New York City. He said she’s sacrificed economic pragmatism at the altar of political ideology.

“I call it a referendum on common sense,” said Dolan, who’s harbored an interest in running for office since volunteering as a driver for former New York Representative Peter Peyser in the 1970s.

Dolan oversaw the financial institutions group at Bank of Nova Scotia until 2020, and spent much of his previous career as an insurance banker. Most recently, he’s worked as an adviser through his own firm, Dolan & Co.

Challenging Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t his first choice. In October, Dolan registered to run against Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman in the 16th congressional district, which covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester County. Like Ocasio-Cortez, Bowman is a member of the so-called Squad, the unofficial group of eight, nonwhite progressive Democratic representatives who have won elections since 2018.

Dolan changed his plans after Westchester County Executive George Latimer entered the race against Bowman in December, immediately drawing significant endorsements and campaign cash.

His rationale for running against Ocasio-Cortez is the same as the reason for challenging Bowman. But the odds against Dolan are steep.

There’s little sign that Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most well-known, admired — and polarizing — members of Congress, faces real vulnerability in her ethnically diverse and progressive district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 8 to 1. The winner of the primary is almost certainly assured of victory in November’s general election.

Her campaign had $5.7 million in cash on hand as of Jan. 1, while Dolan’s campaign has raised just $58,000 so far, $55,000 of which is from loans Dolan made to his own campaign.

Making History

Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at age 29 after winning an upset primary victory over former longtime Representative Joe Crowley in 2018, and has handily won reelection in subsequent contests. She amassed 74.6% of the vote against Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in 2020, the last time she faced a primary challenge.

And Dolan, who resides in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County, doesn’t actually live in NY-14, a potential liability even though candidates aren’t required to live in a district to run in a redistricting year. Dolan said he will move there if he wins the primary.

Ocasio-Cortez has her own vulnerabilities, Dolan said.

He specifically called out her vocal opposition to Inc.’s 2018 plans to locate a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, a deal that fell apart after the company voluntarily abandoned the plan amid widespread local criticism.

Dolan blasted Ocasio-Cortez’s support for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. DEI has recently morphed into a political flashpoint, as corporations pull back initiatives implemented in the wake of protests following George Floyd’s 2020 murder, though criticism has more often come from Republicans.

Migrant Issue

He also accused the lawmaker of “importing immigrants and exporting decent contributing taxpayers,” he said, referring to residents who have fled to Florida and other states. The immigration issue has become ubiquitous in New York over the past year as city and state leaders grapple with how to house, feed and care for the nearly 180,000 migrants who’ve arrived in the city since 2022.

“There’s been nobody who’s more in favor of immigration than AOC, and there’s been no worse thing that’s happened in New York in the last year,” Dolan said.

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign declined to comment.

Dolan’s platform includes plans to advocate for a new federal value-added tax and an additional luxury goods sales tax. The money would be used to reduce the national debt, state pension liabilities and would allow states like New York to lower income taxes. The plan would help New York stave off decades of population loss that have diluted its power and representation in Congress, he argued.

Dolan said that while Ocasio-Cortez may be a political star in the Democratic Party, he has a shot at winning because her track record in the district is thin.

“There’s a lot of people who, even in Queens and the Bronx, think, ‘What has she done for us?’” Dolan said.


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