The House Democrats’ campaign manager faces a tough race of his own


PEEKSKILL, N.Y. (AP) — At a recent rally with union workers and other supporters in the downtown square of this small town on the banks of the Hudson River, New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney tried to remind Democrats that what he thinks the party has achieved.

He touted coronavirus relief legislation passed in early 2021, last fall’s infrastructure deal, a plan to boost high-tech manufacturing, the toughest gun limits in decades and, most recently, a climate and health law that had been cancelled.

Democrats “are doing important things,” Maloney said in an interview after the event.

He’s betting the message will be enough to help him and his party navigate a treacherous political environment this year. As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Maloney is responsible for helping the party defy historical trends and maintain, or even expand, its majority in the House. Meanwhile, he also fends off a challenge from the left in next week’s primary in a district that could be competitive in the fall general election.

Faced with a confluence of obstacles, Maloney insists on staying focused on the party’s agenda.

“When things work, it’s the best policy,” he said.

Maloney, 56, was seen as a rising Democratic star when he was first elected to the House a decade ago. New York’s first openly gay congressman, he was at the forefront of a new Democratic Party making inroads far beyond its urban base.

But she faces a primary challenge next week from state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a 36-year-old progressive who has sought to portray Maloney as an out-of-touch establishment operator.

New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (AP Photo)

“I think he represents everything that is wrong with politics,” Biaggi said in an interview.

Maloney counters that the establishment has done what voters want: pragmatism over activism. “We’ve had a really successful summer and if things continue like this, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people in November,” Maloney said.

He also has the endorsement of The New York Times, which carries heavy weight among Democrats in the borough’s suburbs and New York City suburbs, along with the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton, the Chappaqua home of which is in the area.

Maloney, who worked in the Clinton White House, is a “proven leader,” the former president said in his endorsement, which has so far not been echoed by his wife, the former senator from New York and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has dropped out of the race, though her endorsement would carry much more weight: Biaggi worked on his presidential campaign, and Clinton led Biaggi and her husband in their 2019 wedding votes.

The biggest name backing Biaggi, a lawyer in former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and the granddaughter of former Bronx Rep. Mario Biaggi, is progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Biaggi, like Ocasio-Cortez, has a history of taking on powerful and more moderate members of her party and espouses an activist, working-class creed.

In the same 2018 progressive wave that swept Ocasio-Cortez into office, Biaggi, despite being well-worn, unseated a longtime state senator known for leading a cabal of Democrats who collaborated with Republicans. He has a similar grassroots approach and desire for change as he seeks to unseat Maloney.

“I’ll be at those doors, just like I’ve been every weekend, pulling them off the hinges, pushing every inch,” he said as he gathered a group of campaign volunteers in Sleepy Hollow for a short break. weekend door calls.

She also counts on the unusual circumstances of next week’s primary to help her. It’s the second primary election New Yorkers have had this summer, pushed back to accommodate the redrawing of political maps after the first redistricting attempt was thrown out in court.

In June there was a primary for the races for governor and other state offices, but the primaries for congressional races were delayed until August 23 so that new maps could be drawn.

New Yorkers aren’t used to voting in two primaries, especially one in late August when many are on vacation, and the new maps may leave them unfamiliar with their new district lines and who is considered an incumbent, which could create an opening for someone like Biaggi with activist energy behind her.

While Maloney has represented parts of the new 17th District, Biaggi currently does not represent any of his state Senate seat and moved about 15 miles north to become a resident.

Maloney also moved to upstate New York City when she first ran to represent the region 10 years ago, but is quick to note that she and her husband already had a second home in the area by then. moment

“She has every right to run, but people have a right to know that her district is 95% in the Bronx and I represent several hundred thousand people who are in that district,” he said of Biaggi in the interview.

He and his supporters have painted his politics as too left-wing for the district, pointing to his embrace of the “defund the police” message that the Liberals adopted in 2020 amid a broader national reckoning on the race and the police.

Biaggi has said in interviews that he no longer uses the term because it doesn’t do a great job of conveying the need for police reforms. Her campaign has armed her volunteers with talking points about her use of the phrase, noting that her grandfather was a decorated police officer and she used the phrase while reacting to the horrific video showing the killing of George Floyd.

“This was like, in the heat of the moment, he saw a pretty horrific incident and tweeted it, because we don’t have to shy away from it,” Cori Marquis, a Biaggi campaign aide, told volunteers at Sleepy Hollow as they prepared to knock on doors and cast voters. “She has been very clear in speech, in action, in policy, that she is truly committed to working with all stakeholders to reform our criminal justice system.”

Biden won areas of the new congressional district by 5 points in 2020, but swathes of the north, which Maloney represents, are heavily GOP-friendly and Donald Trump won his district in 2016. Maloney won his current seat of a Republican a decade ago and has remained on the battlefield ever since, which he said was “not a given for a gay guy with an interracial family.”

Voters there, he says, want someone who can work across the aisle, but also defeat Republicans.

Maloney’s work on issues across the aisle, and to defeat one Republican in particular, has drawn pushback from members of his own party, including harsh criticism from Biaggi.

The campaign arm of House Democrats, chaired by Maloney, spent $425,000 on a campaign ad in Michigan that boosted the far-right challenger to U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

Meijer lost to a Trump-backed candidate, which Maloney said has only boosted the Democratic nominee’s prospects in December. But members of his own party warn it was a dangerous gamble.

“It makes people feel like the Democrats are playing a game and it’s not a game,” Biaggi said. “I think it represents everything that people hate about politics.”

Maloney said he understands people take issue with the tactic, but he defended the move.

“My job is to win seats. We are more likely to win this seat now than before the primaries, and this is the bottom line. And that is my responsibility. Full stop,” he said.

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