As chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, Mr. Crowley led a party apparatus that had the power to make or break candidates through support and aggressive campaigning. He helped make the careers of many, including a Who's Who of elected leaders who held his Victory Party Politics wake party on Tuesday night. He helped to make others sit who they otherwise might not have reached.
But faced with an energetic challenge for the first time in years, he could not help himself.
The loss caused reverberation in local races.
Insurgent candidates for state office and those who had protested in the past against the organization of the district were pleased. Party officials licked their wounds and privately lamented the defeat of a challenger who dared to lead a primary campaign.
"The democratic base is clearly extremely angry, hungry for change and they have shown that," said Mr. Johnson. He became philosophical when asked about Mr. Crowley's defeat. "In the political world, one day you're up, the next day you're down," he said. "Politics is cyclical, life is cyclical."
Mr. Crowley took over the post of mentor and predecessor to Congress, Thomas J. Manton, twelve years ago, after many attributed the rescue of the local party to Mr. Mane's corruption scandal in the mid-1980s. Mr. Crowley led the County Party, and through an alliance with the leaders of the Bronx Democrats, gave officials from both counties a greater voice in the overall city politics.
"The Queens Machine was part of the coalition that brought Ed Koch into office," said Michael Krasner, a professor of political science at Queens College. "They have been extremely influential in terms of nominations, elections and land use decisions."