Progressives have made a brand of launching primary challenges against Democratic incumbents. And Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is one of the few New York incumbents of late who have survived to tell the tale.

Maloney for years was heralded as a progressive ally—dating back to her days on the New York City Council in the 1980s, where she advocated for gender equality and was an early proponent of domestic partnership legislation. Elected to Congress in 1993, she’s spent decades racking up policy accomplishments that she can list at the drop of a hat.

And aside from a primary challenge in 2010 where she squashed her opponent with 81 percent of the vote, her incumbency has been safe.

But over the last few years, something changed.

In 2018, 2020, and now 2022, the left has sought to brand Maloney, 76, as a member of the old guard of Democrats. They say she’s out of touch with her district, not progressive enough and allege she hasn’t delivered the sort of change the voters desire.

But in each primary so far, the voters of New York’s 12th Congressional District have signaled they believe otherwise. Her closest brush with electoral disaster came in 2020 when Maloney got just 43 percent of the primary vote while running against three insurgents.

“I work hard. I deliver, and some people appreciate it. Some people don’t,” Maloney said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Yet, with just four months to go before New York’s Democratic primaries, the field against her only continues to grow, with political spectators wondering if this year could be different.

Last week, former Obama administration staffer Suraj Patel announced a primary challenge against Maloney for a third time after losing by just 3,496 votes in the district’s Democratic primary last cycle. Patel first ran against Maloney in 2018.

Patel, a 38-year-old attorney, says he didn’t firmly make a decision to enter the race until the “last week or so.” He was waiting on redistricting results to come through, suggesting in an interview on Feb. 15 that it’s “important to know you know who you’re representing when you’re running for office.”

“Now, more than any time I’ve run before, I think people recognize that Democrats need a new generation of leaders coming out of the pandemic,” Patel told The Daily Beast.

Patel and Maloney’s previous matchups have been nasty. In 2020, Patel called the congresswoman a “vindictive person who uses racist tropes to attack a brown man running against her because it makes her uncomfortable.” That same year, Maloney harshly criticized Patel’s use of faux dating app profiles to engage voters in political conversations.

Internal polling commissioned by Patel’s team in January showed the head-to-head matchup of Maloney against Patel at 41 percent and 37 percent of the vote, respectively, with 22 percent of voters saying they’re unsure who they’d vote for.

But in 2022, Patel isn’t alone. Last year, Rana Abdelhamid, a 28-year-old who works in marketing at Google, also launched a primary challenge against Maloney, focused on issues like affordable housing.

Abdelhamid is backed by Justice Democrats: a progressive group that rose to prominence after backing now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against then- Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in 2018.

“I’m someone who grew up under Rep. Maloney’s leadership. I have seen firsthand the ways in which she has been neglectful of communities like mine,” Abdelhamid told The Daily Beast. Abdelhamid added that she believes Maloney has been too close with Wall Street and corporations throughout her career.

“That is evidenced by where she’s getting her funding, where her source of resources is, and who she centered in terms of her campaign and work,” Abdelhamid added. Maloney accepts corporate funding—a position that’s become increasingly unpopular among new-age progressives.

There are at least three other primary bids against Maloney so far, including community activists Maya Contreras and Jesse Cerrotti, in addition to Maud Maron. Maron is former public defender and centrist Democrat who’s running on an anti-mask-mandate, open-schools campaign.

Chris Coffey, a New York Democratic strategist and CEO of Tusk Strategies, told The Daily Beast “certainly the more people that run, you would think the higher Carolyn’s advantage,” with the potential for more progressive voters to be split between Maloney’s challengers while allowing the congresswoman to keep a hold of here base. Coffey added that could change if more established politicians were to hop in the race, too.

Coffey also noted he doesn’t believe NY-12 is a district that would gravitate toward an especially far-left progressive, stating, “The district right now is not a [Democratic Socialist of America] district.” Abdelhamid is a member of the DSA.

George Arzt, another veteran Democratic strategist in New York, also noted the map of NY-12 post-redistricting was a “major victory” for Maloney. NY-12’s new lines pull in parts of Manhattan that are currently represented by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and cut out parts of Brooklyn and Queens—areas where Patel excelled in previous elections. Abdelhamid is also based in Queens.

“It is a very good district for her,” he said. Arzt has worked with Maloney in previous elections but is not currently.

As for Maloney herself, she maintains that she doesn’t “take anything for granted” and says she’s been “out meeting new voters and new areas of the district and working hard.” And amid a campaign cycle wherein 30 House Democrats aren’t seeking re-election, the congresswoman says that thought hasn’t crossed her mind.

“I have too much to do,” she said.

The left wing of the party has criticized some votes on Maloney’s record—the kinds often accumulated by members who’ve been in office for years. In previous cycles, she’s been criticized for voting for former President Bill Clinton’s 1984 crime bill and voting for the Iraq War.

Still, those votes do not paint a full picture of Maloney’s overwhelmingly progressive leanings. She’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a proponent for Medicare for All, and a supporter of the Green New Deal.

“I’m a progressive—a pragmatic progressive with experience. They’re pragmatic progressives with no experience,” Maloney told The Daily Beast of her opponents.

“When they say they’re progressive, I would say they’re really saying, ‘I’m like Carolyn Maloney, only without any of the experience or knowledge base,’” she added.

The congresswoman added that her outlook on campaigns, even amid repeated primary challenges, remains forward-looking.

“I don’t look back. Because oftentimes, the fights that I’ve been through, are so painful that I don’t even want to remember. And, you know, every election is difficult…” she said. “I like to save my energy and all my thought for the future.”



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.