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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez officially faces a challenger in the upcoming Democratic primary. 

Marty Dolan, 66, has received notice from the NYC Board of Elections that he will be on the ballot for the June primary against Ocasio-Cortez, who will face a primary challenger for the first time since 2020.

Dolan, who is a retired Wall Street insurance executive, needed 1,250 signatures from registered Democrats who live in the district in order to get on the ballot — and he said he got 7,300. The Bronx Times reached out to the Board of Elections for confirmation of these numbers and is awaiting a response.

Dolan said he’s been hitting the streets talking to prospective voters throughout District 14, which covers neighborhoods in the east Bronx and northern Queens. Stopping at grocery stores, churches and parks, he said he has seen a lot of enthusiasm for his candidacy — and some even hugged him and said, “I love you.” 

“The feedback continues to be really positive,” he said. 

Dolan, who was living outside the district when he last spoke with the Bronx Times, said he has now found a place to live in the Bronx at “the bottom of White Plains Road,” and he’s also looking for a place in Queens — which he sees as a way of meeting people where they are in a large, highly varied district. 

Fundraising has picked up recently, he said. Records from the Federal Election Commission showed that for the period ending March 31, the campaign had $20,893 cash on hand after expenditures, factoring in $17,075 in individual contributions and Dolan’s loan of $225,000 to his own campaign.

He takes pride in running a simple, relatively low-budget campaign. “What you need to do is be on the ground, shaking hands with people, sitting outside the supermarket and really making yourself available to the voters.” 

As for his opponent, “She’s on the GQ [magazine] cover. She’s on the Late Show. She’s not in the supermarket,” he said. 

Ocasio-Cortez’s office declined to comment for this story but is in the process of arranging an interview with the Bronx Times.

Dolan wants his campaign, and his tenure in Congress should he win, to maintain a predictable, easy-to-find presence that stays laser-focused on the district — not on charged political and international issues such as the War in Gaza, which he called “not a central issue for people in the district.”

‘We’re offering a choice’

In the heavily Democratic 14th District, Dolan emphasized the importance of educating people about the June 25 primary. More voters should have their say when more options are on the table, he said.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about the current representative, and we’re offering a choice,” said Dolan.

He said a campaign van — “Rollin’ With Dolan” — is coming soon, which will help him cover more ground as he campaigns as an unknown against one of the world’s most recognizable political figures. 

But Dolan said he has been well-received in the district by those dissatisfied with the current state of progressive politics. Some have “profound reactions” to him, he said, and it’s often younger people with low to moderate incomes who respond most positively. 

“The younger voters with families and houses are thrilled to see us,” said Dolan.

While canvassing in the district, Dolan said he has met many people who are “barely getting by” and cannot focus much on broad issues. They are mostly concerned with how those issues trickle down to their neighborhoods — for instance, how immigration in the United States affects the local economy. 

Many constituents view Ocasio-Cortez as an “egomaniac,” Dolan said. “Her focus is on becoming a national franchise,” and she has succeeded while ignoring the reality of what constituents are concerned about, he argues. 

The big issues

If he wins — or as Dolan said, “when we’re in Congress” — he plans to have a mobile office instead of a brick-and-mortar one and travel around the district to make himself accessible. And “we’re gonna spend 99% of our money in the district,” he said. 

While he said that fundraising has picked up recently, Dolan insisted that a pile of money is worthless without listening to people about the issues they care about. The biggest topics, he says, are transit, crime and affordable housing. 

In terms of transportation, Dolan has found that people want more options — for instance, he said, “Why not a ferry from downtown to Orchard Beach in the summer?” — and they largely oppose congestion pricing. 

The Metro-North megaproject, he said, is “a good idea but at what cost?” Dolan said that constituents are debating, “We want the train, but do we really want the high-rise housing?” 

Another issue on residents’ minds is immigration, according to Dolan. While he comes from an immigrant family himself, he believes liberal politicians have become too lax, to the detriment of cities such as New York. 

A January report by City Comptroller Brad Lander found that immigrants are a net benefit to the local economy because they pay billions in taxes, spend a lot of their earnings and fill jobs in vital industries. But Dolan sees huge problems with what he called “unfair” illegal immigration run rampant. 

Dolan recalled seeing an 8-year-old girl selling candy while he was out canvassing. He asked where she was from, and she said she was from a remote part of Ecuador that he compared to the mountains of Utah. The journey to the U.S. must have been thousands of miles, he said.

“She doesn’t speak English, barely able to communicate, with a backpack, selling a Kit Kat bar,” said Dolan — and she’s one of the “lucky” ones who made it here. There should be more talk about those who never make it, Dolan said. 

But since immigration is a federal issue, there’s not much a single elected official can do locally other than connect people with resources, he said. Still, Dolan blasted progressive politicians, including his opponent, for promoting what he views as an immigration free-for-all.

“It’s blatantly irresponsible, and that death and destruction is on their hands,” he said.

And despite the lack of concrete evidence to support a connection between migrants and crime in the city, Dolan believes in that connection — and he said he’s heard from many constituents “terrified on crime” who agree.

He pointed to incidents that drew a lot of attention on social media, such as the migrants who were arrested in a brawl with police officers in Times Square. He also mentioned what seemed to be a trend of men randomly punching women, as well as an April incident where a man whacked a woman with a hockey stick in the East Village. Although not all these incidents were tied to migrants, to Dolan, they are all part of the larger picture of an unsafe city. 

When asked if the conflation of migrants and crime may be considered fearmongering, Dolan insisted that his views reflect the attitudes of constituents. He said frustrated residents feel police are not dealing with petty crime due to budget cuts and other interferences — which caused things to escalate. 

“There’s a reason the National Guard was put in the subway,” he said.

‘Lowering of standards’ 

In a huge, complicated city, Dolan lamented the attitude that certain problems are just part of life.

“People are so immune to the lowering of standards,” he said. 

In his experience living and working in other major cities around the world, Dolan said he doesn’t see the same issues everywhere.

Low standards might be acceptable if New York City were a cheap place to live, but the 14% local tax rate is too high to expect so little, according to Dolan.

In getting at solutions, he focused on government sovereignty —and the inconsistency of local laws. 

Local governments are “administrative centers,” not governments in and of themselves, said Dolan. And local entities like the City Council have “tried to reinterpret the Constitution,” he said, leading to major variations in laws on a state by state, city by city basis. 

Dolan advocates for more national consistency that would free up local governments to focus on the “administrative unit” that handles the daily tasks of making sure the city is running well, that the trash is picked up.

And after elected officials have spent a lot of time with boots on the ground, engaging directly with residents in their districts, it buys them more credibility to branch out into larger political or international issues that aren’t directly related to the district. Those like Ocasio-Cortez, he said, have done it backwards. 

“She’s not representative of her district,” he said.

For Dolan, Democratic voters will have a clear choice in the District 14 primary, which he called “the most important congressional election around.”

“Are we going to keep going down the path of radical politics and celebrity politics, or are we gonna take a step back and just recenter everything?” he said. “We’ll see. They have to turn out and vote, though.”  

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