By Allison Moon
WSR took to the streets yesterday to talk to Upper West Siders about the historic Nadler-Maloney face-off in the upcoming Democratic congressional primary, taking place on August 23rd.
The first thing we discovered in our on-the-ground, informal, information-gathering effort is that about half the people we met had no idea the “match-up of the century” was even taking place or who the contenders are!
“I haven’t been following”…”I haven’t looked into it”… “I don’t know enough about the candidates to say anything,” were common refrains.
It’s time to get up to snuff, Upper West Siders! Here’s the gist:
Representative Jerrold (Jerry) Nadler (D-NY-10), the man who has represented the Upper West Side in Congress for the past 30 years, who made us proud (and brought a Zabar’s bag into the house chamber) during one of the Trump impeachment trials, is running for re-election against Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), the woman who has represented the Upper East Side for the past 30 years, who wore a heavy fireman’s jacket for months — to the Met Gala, even — until the 911 survivors got their legislative due, in the newly drawn 12th Congressional District.
Two “titans,” they’re being called. He, the chairman of the powerful judiciary committee, she, the chairwoman of the powerful oversight and reform committee. Two liberals — progressives, when the word had a different connotation — allies and compatriots on every issue — almost.
There are three notable exceptions: Nadler voted against the war in Iraq, Maloney voted for it, as she did for the Patriot Act, which Nadler also voted against. Nadler voted for the Iran Nuclear deal, Maloney voted against it.
Now, as a result of redistricting, which we covered in detail here, here, and here, instead of District 10, the Upper West Side belongs to the newly drawn District 12, and Nadler and Maloney will meet.
“Perhaps the most startling rearrangement came in Manhattan, an island long divided on an east-west axis,” The New York Times wrote. “…dividing it up north-south instead, throwing both Mr. Nadler and Ms. Maloney into the 12th Congressional District after three decades of serving side by side.”
“It is a disservice to the city that they’re being forced to match up against each other,” said Upper West Sider Cynthia. Roberta agreed. “This is another stupid move by the Democratic Party – killing off their own,” she said. “I’m furious at the system for creating this choice. Usually, it is a race where I don’t like both of the candidates, but that is not the case here.”
Several Upper West Siders shared that they will remain loyal to Nadler going forward. “It’s not a matter of politics,” one man said. “It’s a matter of comfort. I’m not comfortable with Maloney. I’m comfortable with Nadler.” Another resident said, “He’s been great. He’s served the community really well.” “He’s our guy,” a woman simply said.
Besides Nadler and Maloney, a third Democratic candidate for the 12th District – Suraj Patel – has emerged in the headlines. Patel, a lawyer and businessman, ran against Maloney in the old 12th District in the last two congressional primaries, losing narrowly by less than 4 points in 2020.
Notably, Patel is 38. Nadler is 74, and Maloney is 76. In his campaign video, Patel states that “we need new leadership.” In referring to the redistricting, he says that “career politicians tried to cut me out [of the district]…it backfired. Now, thanks to them, we’ve lost even more ground to Republicans.”
Some residents took issue with the redistricting not because of the ramifications of losing either Nadler or Maloney in Congress, but because they perceived there to be something fundamentally misguided about grouping West Siders and East Siders together. “They are very different populations,” one Upper West Sider said. “The West is more progressive and more artsy,” another resident explained. “The Upper West Side feels more relaxed.”
Despite the drama associated with the upcoming primary, who will prevail may boil down simply to who is able to get people out to vote when it matters. Speaking to the NY State of Politics, GOP Election Commissioner Jude Seymour commented on the effects of redistricting on NYC’s already low voter turnout rates. “I think voters are going to be very confused about which primary is for what races. And the idea that the state Assembly is on June 28 and the state Senate is on Aug. 23 is also going to be very confusing…We expect really, unfortunately, pathetically low turnout.”
Which side of the park sends more people east to the Hamptons in August, and north to the Hudson Valley and beyond, may also be a factor.
For Upper West Siders, this year’s congressional race (NY-12) is one fraught, for the first time in many decades, with deep uncertainty. Look for lots of sidewalk campaigning and national political spotlighting in the next three months.