The Democratic primary battle in New York City between Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler is heating up, and one of the senior House members will be forced to resign.
In an unexpected twist in the redistricting process, Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, were drawn into the same seat, the 12th, leaving New York voters to choose between two city titans with established power bases.
Suraj Patel, a 38-year-old progressive attorney and former Obama staffer, is also running against the two septuagenarians on a generational basis.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s primary, Nadler has emerged as the front-runner of the trio, but Election Day will cap off a frustrating and nasty stretch of the race for city residents, observers say.
“New York is the loser in this. New York voters have been forced to make a decision that they had not planned or intended to make. These are two members who are well-liked by the electorate “Democratic strategist Jon Reinish, based in New York City, agreed. “It really stinks to have to make this choice as a New York City voter.”
Both Nadler and Maloney, who were elected in 1992, have deep roots in different parts of Manhattan.
For many years, Nadler represented the Upper West Side, and Maloney’s old seat covered the Upper East Side, two wealthy enclaves in New York City.
Patel has never held public office, but he came within 4% of defeating Maloney in a 2020 primary.
Nadler and Maloney have long been allies in the House, and they were disappointed when a Democratic-drawn House map for New York was tossed out in favor of one that merged their districts after the last census. However, once the race began, barbs began to fly.
Nadler has ripped into Maloney’s long voting record on high-profile issues, including her past support for the Iraq War and the Bush-era Patriot Act, as well as her opposition to the Iran nuclear deal during the Obama administration. Nadler also attempted to portray Maloney as a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, which was a particularly sharp elbow thrown during the pandemic. (According to her website, “vaccines are safe, effective, and absolutely necessary for public health.”)
Meanwhile, Maloney appears to be pursuing Nadler’s age. While Nadler, 75, is one year Maloney’s junior, she seemed to add fuel to speculation about his stamina, especially after he sat during a primary debate while Maloney and Patel stood.
She expressed concern earlier this month about “if for some reason someone will not serve their term,” citing “tons of rumors out there.” She later stated that she believes Nadler will serve another term. Patel has argued that it is time for a change in Congress, while also criticizing Nadler and Maloney for their ambiguous responses on whether President Joe Biden should run for reelection in 2024.
It was speculated early in the race that Nadler and Maloney would split the so-called establishment vote, and that Patel could win on his youthful message.
In the final stretch, Nadler has gained the coveted endorsements of The New York Times editorial board and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, prompting Maloney to decry the influence of the “old boys’ network that sticks together.”
Regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, New York City will lose a senior member of Congress who has amassed a lifetime of chits.
Democrats see it as a self-inflicted defeat after their heavily gerrymandered House map was challenged by Republicans and ultimately scrapped by a state court, handing the map-drawing process to an outside special master who did not consider Democratic priorities.
“I think they naively assumed there would never be a lawsuit that could effectively overturn their maps and render their process moot,” Reinish, the strategist, said. “And I believe they did not plan well for this. And I believe the Republicans had no trouble finding a judge to do it. They were very successful.”