By Carol Tannenhauser
The most striking thing about Tuesday night’s primary debate between the Democratic congressional candidates in New York’s District 12 — veteran Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, and newcomer Suraj Patel — is how much they are in alignment on major issues. Increase the size of the Supreme Court? Yes, all agree. Should Joe Biden be the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee? Yes. Should Congress appropriate more federal money for policing and codify abortion rights? Yes, and yes. And congestion pricing for New York City? Yes, with no more delays.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the race, then, is what Patel has made an issue throughout his campaign (and in his previous efforts to unseat Maloney): generational change. Patel has hammered away at the idea that, after 30 years each in Congress, Maloney and Nadler should retire, and voters should elect him as an agent of change.
Nadler and Maloney counterargue that voters should stick with experience. In fact, if voters reject both in favor of Patel, Nadler pointed out, New York would lose two representatives with powerful committee chairmanships in the House of Representatives.
“Losing one would be unfortunate,” Nadler said. “Losing two would be catastrophic.”
Patel says he’ll bring fresh ideas to solving problems before Congress. But throughout Tuesday night’s debate, hosted by PIX11 and Hunter College, Patel talked through his time limits so frequently that viewers learned little about his platform. Maloney showed even greater disregard for warnings that her time was up; only Nadler came close to observing the time limits.
Nadler also offered a more energetic performance than he did at a similar debate last week sponsored by Spectrum News and WNYC. At one point a moderator asked him about police funding, noting that “In 2020, you told West Side Rag that you favored defunding the police.”
Wait, did he say West Side Rag?
Yes, he did, and Nadler contested the point, saying he had called for shifting “some resources from the police to mental health and social services, because the cops can’t do everything.” If you read the Rag article referred to, you’ll see that he was right.
The Democratic primary is August 23, and one sure outcome is that New York will lose at least one of its veteran representatives, because a new redistricting map threw Maloney and Nadler into competition for the congressional seat Maloney has long held. Still trying to make up your mind who to vote for? Watch the debate; it’s worth the hour. The video replay is below.