- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The House Democrat in charge of getting Democrats elected is now facing a new primary challenge from the left, underscoring a party schism busting open in this year’s midterm elections.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will face off against progressive state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in New York‘s 17th Congressional District, which includes parts of Westchester and Rockland counties outside New York City.

Ms. Biaggi, an ally of the far-left “Squad” leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, jumped in the race Tuesday in response to Mr. Maloney muscling another progressive, Rep. Mondaire Jones, out of the newly redrawn district.

“The Democratic Party should be led by fearless champions – not selfish, corporate politicians,” Ms. Biaggi tweeted when announcing her run.

Ms. Biaggi quickly picked up the support of fellow Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a New York City Democrat and member of Capitol Hill’s “Squad.”

The Maloney campaign said the congressman’s record speaks for itself.

“Rep. Maloney has served the Hudson Valley for nearly a decade, spending every day fighting for working families, good jobs, and to protect the environment,” his campaign said in a statement. “From banning oil barge anchorages on the Hudson River to cleaning up local drinking water, Congressman Maloney has always been there for the Hudson Valley and will continue to be. He has strong support across the 17th District and looks forward to earning the support of voters once again this fall.”

This sort of primary clash between moderates and progressives is playing out across the country in the midterm elections. The Biaggi-Maloney showdown is also part of a Democratic drama in New York spurred by the decennial redistricting.

Mr. Maloney and Mr. Jones ended up in the same district when the new congressional map was finalized late last week by a New York court. Mr. Maloney could have run next door in the new 18th District but would have faced a much tougher reelection bid. 

Looking to avoid an ugly primary fight, Mr. Jones announced he would run in the newly drawn 10th Congressional District, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn about two hours away from the 17th District.

Ms. Biaggi said Mr. Jones was bullied off his home turf.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Biaggi said Mr. Maloney is poised to say she is “hurting the party” by primarying him.

“What hurt the party was having the head of the campaign arm not stay in his district, not maximize the number of seats New York can have to hold the majority,” she said, adding that Mr. Maloney is a “selfish corporate Democrat” for running in a district that should be represented by a Black progressive.

Mr. Maloney, who represented the 18th Congressional District in the Hudson Valley, angered progressives after a court-appointed special master released the new map. He announced he would run in the bluer district next door, which is also where his home is located.

Most of that newly drawn district had been represented by Mr. Jones, a progressive caucus member. And Mr. Jones lives in the same district as fellow progressive freshman Mr. Bowman in the newly drawn solid blue 16th District that goes further south into Westchester County.

Ms. Biaggi, who represents part of Westchester in the state senate, had previously announced a run in New York‘s 3rd Congressional District, but the finalized congressional map last week showed that Westchester County is no longer part of that district.

She comes to the congressional race with not only progressive credentials but with a New York political pedigree. Her grandfather, Mario Biaggi, represented a New York district in the House for two decades between the late 1960s and 1980s.

Republicans took delight in the DCCC chairman’s problems.

“Wherever he goes Sean Patrick Maloney makes a mess.” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Samantha Bullock said in a statement.

The newly drawn 17th District does not include her present state Senate district, but Ms. Biaggi is already getting support from powerful New York officials including New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who encouraged Democrats to knock on doors in the district for Ms. Biaggi ahead of the Aug. 23 primary.

Mr. Maloney, a five-term member, has support from Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. He had a head start on fundraising with over $2 million cash on hand at the end of the last filing period.

Ms. Biaggi is a well-known member of New York‘s Democratic leaders and progressives. She previously interned for former Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley after she graduated from college and while in law school.

She also worked as assistant general counsel in Gov. Cuomo’s administration in the Office of Storm Recovery and later worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign as deputy national operations director.

Since her time in the Cuomo administration, Ms. Biaggi successfully ran for the state legislature where she has served since 2019 as chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Internal Governance.

New York Republicans are also interested in the 17th District. GOP Assemblyman Michael Lawler launched his campaign for Congress on Monday afternoon. 

“I’m running for Congress in New York’s 17th Congressional District! Inflation, crime, education, and immigration. We need real leadership and a willingness to tackle the issues that matter most to NYers. I’m ready for the fight and ready to win!” Mr. Lawler said in his campaign announcement. 

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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