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August 23 Primary Preview, Part I: NY
A look at the Empire State's congressional primary elections
As the summer draws to a close, primary season is nearing its end. Two big states are holding primary elections on Tuesday. In New York, a set of high-profile congressional and state senate primaries are being held there today, as primaries already occurred for statewide offices and state assembly races. Our next post will give an overview of some important races in Florida, where state and federal primaries are taking place.
After a redistricting ruling re-scrambled New York’s congressional map and suddenly turned a Democratic bright spot into much tougher terrain, the primary date was rescheduled. The redistricting ruling also means there will likely be several competitive general election campaigns in New York’s swingiest new districts this fall: NY-22, where Republican Rep. John Katko got slightly safer in a district where he has frustrated Democrats for a few cycles now; NY-18, a D+3 district that the DCCC Chair apparently believed was not worth defending; and NY-02, a R+6 Suffolk County district where polling shows GOP freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino surprisingly vulnerable against Democrat Jackie Gordon. Rather than writing about those general election campaigns, we will take a look at Tuesday’s most closely contested Democratic primaries.
In addition to the primary contests, many tea leaves will be read from the the special election result in NY-19, a R+1 district that former Rep. Antonio Delgado precariously left behind to become lieutenant governor. This is another district that will probably see a competitive general election in November. In the first round, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan is the Democratic candidate hoping to win the remaining months of Delgado’s term against the Republican, Dutchess County Executive Marc Malinaro.
NY-03: After losing his campaign for governor, Rep. Tom Suozzi, a very corporate Democrat, is leaving his potentially competitive D+4 Long Island seat open. In the primary to succeed him, Suozzi endorsed Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, a former Republican best known for vetoed legislation that sought to “shield” police from alleged protestor harassment. Lafazan is receiving substantial support from the crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s Protect Our Future PAC. The more progressive options in the race are SEIU-backed North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a DNC Committeeperson named Robert Zimmerman with lots of mainstream/labor support, and Melanie D’Arrigo, a Green New Deal champion and progressive activist who challenged Suozzi in 2020.
NY-04: Rep. Kathleen Rice is retiring and leaving behind a district that at D+10 is slightly bluer than the Long Island constituency that she represented. Rice, centrists, and crypto money have lined up behind Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, whose main opponent seems to be Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, who very reluctantly succumbed to a demand to rename a Malverne street honoring a former KKK leader.
NY-10: Rep. Mondaire Jones grew the Squad when he won a crowded primary in 2020. In Congress, he has been a Green New Deal champion, the lead sponsor of the Fossil Free Finance Act, and an outspoken voice on the Judiciary Committee for better antitrust enforcement and bankruptcy reform that prevents fossil fuel companies from unloading their liabilities onto the public.
Despite Jones’ record, the crowded primary created in the Lower Manhattan-based NY-10 after he was chased away from his home district has led many progressives to favor another candidate. Sunrise Movement NYC, Working Families Party, and Indivisible are supporting Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou. Jones and others have trained their attention on Levi Strauss heir Dan Goldman, who has been criticized for his investments in Chevron among other hated corporations, his mealy-mouthed positioning on abortion, and his dubious assertion that Supreme Court expansion is “undemocratic.” Goldman’s opponents cried foul when the New York Times endorsed him despite his comparative lack of qualifications, and also when Trump bizarrely endorsed him in apparent retaliation against Goldman’s role as counsel to his first impeachment. Also running are NYC Councilmember Carlina Rivera, a Green New Deal for New York cosponsor with lots of labor support, and Watergate-era Congresswoman Liz Holtzman, who is endorsed by many feminist icons who also backed her near-win in the 1980 US Senate race.
NY-12: This district is a battle between two senior incumbents who have signed on as Green New Deal champions, House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler. Though more famous for twice passing articles of impeachment against Trump out of his Committee, Nadler has also used his Judiciary perch to spur on revitalized antitrust enforcement. Last year, Nadler shepherded a package of antitrust reforms through his Committee, though Silicon Valley Democrats have so far held the package off in both the House and Senate. If Nadler loses, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who represents Silicon Valley, is poised to replace him as the top Democrat on Judiciary.
Maloney, who has long represented Manhattan and is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, responded to pressure in previous primary campaigns by forging an amiable working relationship with Sunrise Movement activists. As Oversight Chair, she has spearheaded an investigation into Big Oil’s climate misinformation that has led to testimony by fossil fuel executives. Outside groups have attacked Maloney for her past anti-vaccination sentiments. Maloney’s history of hawkish foreign policy votes, including her support for the Iraq war and her vote against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, were cited by the New York Times as major reasons why they endorsed Nadler. Wealthy lawyer Suraj Patel, whose unusual campaign tactics were noted in his 2018 race, is running for the third consecutive cycle, and has a climate forward/YIMBY agenda that has attracted centrist commentators like Matt Yglesias. Patel seems to have enough support to be a factor in the race, and has been endorsed by environmental lawyer Stephen Donziger (who is still awaiting a pardon from President Biden).
NY-16: Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a former principal, Squad member, and author of the Green New Deal for Public Schools, is running for his second term. He has faced some very lowball tactics from his two opponents, a pair of Westchester County legislators named Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker.
NY-17: As the chair of the DCCC, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is responsible for protecting House Democrats’ majority in a very tough electoral cycle. Even Maloney’s fellow New Democrats were therefore upset when he chose to run in NY-17, home of Westchester County and also to incumbent Congressional Progressive Caucus Member Mondaire Jones, rather than the slightly tougher, D+3 Upper Hudson Valley NY-18 that he currently represents.
After Jones decided to run in NY-10 instead, Green New Deal champion Alessandra Biaggi— best known for restoring Democratic control of the New York state senate by defeating the founder of the Republican-enabling IDC— got in the race against Maloney. Maloney has added to the outrage by running ads that brag about his ability to win a district that Trump carried in 2016—the very district he just abandoned. Incredibly, the New York Times’ endorsement of Maloney parroted this argument that Maloney is a Democrat who can win in Trump-friendly areas (he just chooses not to, I guess). The NYT then praised Biaggi as a “rising star” while helping to squelch her rise. In 2018, Maloney was one of 50 congressional Democrats to hand Trump his second biggest legislative accomplishment by voting for S. 2155, a bill that substantially weakened Wall Street protections. While numerous Democrats lost their general elections after taking that vote, none had lost a primary until earlier this year. The Working Families Party is running ads denouncing Maloney’s vote for S. 2155, while the fossil-fuel-funded DMFI is spending in support of Maloney.
Here’s a quick look at some big New York City contests; make sure to check out Primary School for the deep dive across the state.
SD-13 (Jackson Heights) and SD-18 (Bushwick-Greenpoint-Williamsburg-Cypress Hilles): Democratic socialist incumbents Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar are running unopposed.
SD-21 (Park Slope-Flatbush): Adams is backing volatile incumbent Kevin Parker, who chairs the Energy Committee and introduced the New York Build Public Renewables Act. Sunrise NYC, WFP, and DSA are supporting rideshare-driving organizer David Alexis, in the first competitive primary Parker has faced in over a decade.
SD-25 (Bed-Stuy/Red Hook): Incumbent democratic socialist Jabari Brisport is being challenged by Adams choice Rev. Conrad Tillard, who was notoriously antisemitic and homophobic when he was a Nation of Islam leader.
SD-59 (Manhattan-Astoria-Greenpoint): DSA organizer Kristen Gonzalez is the clear progressive choice against Joe Crowley’s cousin Elizabeth Crowley, backed by Adams and real-estate PACs.