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Top Democrats Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney face off in New York House primary

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People vote during the June Primary Election at Brooklyn Central Library on June 28, 2022 in New York, New York.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Two powerful House Democrats from New York City are fighting for political survival in Tuesday’s primary election after a re-drawn district map spurred them to compete for a single seat in Congress.

Incumbent Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, senior liberal lawmakers who each chair prominent House committees, have locked horns in the battle for Manhattan’s newly formed 12th Congressional District.

That reshaped district covers the middle of the island, including the Upper East Side, currently represented by Maloney, and Nadler’s domain on the Upper West Side.

Nadler appeared to hold an edge heading into Tuesday’s vote. The New York Times and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both gave him their endorsements. Surveys of the race conducted by Emerson College Polling-Pix11-The Hill showed Nadler extending his lead, with 43% of respondents backing him and 29% picking Maloney in the most recent edition.

Suraj Patel, who has challenged Maloney in two previous primary elections, is also on the ballot, garnering support from 14% of respondents in the latest Emerson poll.

The two frontrunners, who have represented their adjacent chunks of Manhattan for three decades, are not pulling punches as they fight to hold their seats.

“He said, ‘Step aside, I’m running.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m running too. I’m not leaving,'” Maloney said in a New York Magazine profile of the race. “He said, ‘I’m gonna win.’ I said, ‘I’m gonna win.’ We haven’t spoken since,” she said.

Maloney, 76, has also fanned rumors that Nadler, 75, won’t serve out his full term if elected and that he’s senile and unfit for office — charges Nadler’s campaign has denied.

Nadler has highlighted the differences in their voting records, saying Maloney has been “wrong on very major issues” including her “cowardly” vote for the Patriot Act, New York Magazine reported. Nadler has also made his Jewish faith a central part of his pitch to voters.

Maloney, meanwhile, has sought to center her experiences as a woman in politics while touting her record on social issues — including abortion, a galvanizing topic in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.

“You cannot send a man to do a woman’s job,” Maloney said in a recent television ad. She has been endorsed by famed attorney and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.

Nadler, 75, currently chairs the House Judiciary Committee, while Maloney, 76, leads the House Oversight Committee.

The new district lines were drawn by a court-appointed third party and approved by a state judge in May, the culmination of an acrimonious redistricting process. Republicans had successfully argued that a Democrat-proposed map, which would have drawn district lines for the next 10 years, was unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

The scrapping of the Democrats’ map led a federal judge to order New York to delay its congressional primary date to Tuesday, Aug. 23, two months later than originally scheduled. The state’s gubernatorial primary, however, was still held in late June. That contest set up a general election fight between Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin.

The final New York map led to clashes among current and hopeful House Democrats in multiple districts.

Five-term incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, opted to seek reelection in the re-drawn neighboring district that includes terrain held by freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones. Rather than compete against Maloney, Jones is campaigning for another new district that includes lower Manhattan and part of Brooklyn.

Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced a bid for that House seat, but dropped out of the race last month.

Sean Patrick Maloney, seen as a centrist who is backed by police unions and former President Bill Clinton, faces major competition from progressive state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and others.

Jones, meanwhile is fighting in a crowded field that some polls show is being led by Daniel Goldman, a Levi Strauss heir who served as counsel during former President Donald Trump‘s first impeachment. Trump was impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate.

Some state Democrats, including Nadler, have loudly decried the new district map. Leading Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who represents a section of Brooklyn, called it a “constitutional travesty.”

New York State Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister, a Republican, defended the changes, writing that the “boundaries absolutely had to be moved” and that the new map is “almost perfectly neutral.”

But the moves may dash Democrats’ hopes of keeping control of the House in an election cycle that is historically tough for the incumbent president’s party. While some models show Democrats are slightly favored to hold onto the Senate past the midterms, Republicans remain favored to take the House.

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