By Ann Cooper
Maybe you already mailed in your absentee ballot and headed to the beach.
Or maybe you’ve watched the first and second debates; studied the ads about women’s rights, or Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement, or a connection to Barack Obama; and read the Rag’s Q and As with Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, and Suraj Patel, the three Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s primary for the 12th district congressional seat. And you feel ready to go to your Upper West Side polling place and cast your ballot. Good for you!
But let’s say you haven’t paid much attention to this unusual race, created by a redistricting plan that forced Maloney and Nadler, each in their 70s, each with three decades of congressional service, to run against each other for a single House seat. Throw in third candidate Patel, a lawyer/businessman in his 30s who has never held office but argues that it’s time for change. Now you’ve got a generational fight, and one with at least the possibility of a major upset, if Patel pulls enough votes away from each of the veterans. (A fourth candidate, Ashmi Sheth, did not meet fundraising requirements to participate in the televised debates and hasn’t had much visibility. Her campaign website is here. )
You won’t be surprised to learn that much of the media coverage has focused on personalities, political attacks, and the horse race: Maloney’s personal wealth and Donald Trump’s crackpot endorsement of her; Patel’s charges that Maloney is “commitedly anti-vaxxer”; Nadler’s (and Maloney’s) hesitancy to say Joe Biden should run for re-election in 2024.
Here’s a roundup of where to find out more on the candidates, including our endorsement – not of a candidate, but of some reading we suggest before making your choice (and even if you’ve already chosen, you’ll learn a lot about whomever ends up winning on Tuesday).
WHO’S ENDORSING WHOM?
Some people hate endorsements; some put a lot of stock in them, figuring if so-and-so is for Candidate A, then I should be, too. Here’s a sampling of who’s backing whom in the 12th district race:
Maloney: Planned Parenthood, NOW, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Human Rights Campaign, Gloria Steinem, and a slew of local politicians, Democratic clubs, and unions have endorsed her. The full list is here; it takes awhile to scroll through them all.
Nadler: A couple of groups appear to be hedging bets – Planned Parenthood, for example, endorsed both Maloney and Nadler; so did The Daily News. While Maloney has a bunch of lesser-known Democratic politicians backing her, high-profile Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, have Nadler’s back, as does City Council member Gale Brewer, who represents the UWS. When you open Nadler’s website, a message pops up: “Jerry has been endorsed by The New York Times!” Look here for a fuller list.
Patel: Andrew Yang, who spiced up debates in his unsuccessful 2020 bid for the Democratic nomination for president (and also lost his race for New York mayor), endorsed Patel this summer. Patel’s campaign site lists no other endorsements.
WHO ARE THESE CANDIDATES, ANYWAY?
Though not strictly about issues, the three profiles published by the Times this summer offered more depth than most of the media coverage. Each focused in on a salient feature of the politician or the campaign.
In Nadler’s case, the paper noted that while Jewish lawmakers once held about half of the city’s congressional seats, today Nadler is New York’s last remaining Jewish congressman. Though he voted against the wishes of many Orthodox constituents when he supported former President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal (a reason why AIPAC endorses Maloney and not Nadler – she opposed the Iran deal), Nadler has a record of strong support of U.S.-Israeli relations and Israeli defense, according to the article.
The Times’s Maloney profile calls her “one of the most powerful women in Congress” (she chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform) and details her work on behalf of women’s rights. It’s what she’s stressed most in the campaign, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade. Her pitchline: A Man Can’t Do My Job.
Though he’s run twice before against Maloney, and lost, Patel is the new face in the race and has gotten considerable attention with his argument that 30 years is long enough in Congress – time for a change, and never mind that it would mean the city losing representatives with considerable seniority and power (in addition to Maloney’s chairmanship, Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee). Patel supports term limits (Nadler and Maloney do not), but says he would not put an age limit on those serving in Congress. The Times article called him a “frenetic Indian American lawyer” with “a less-than-meek approach” who’s betting that his pro-youth message will find resonance with young voters.
What are voters thinking about the race? In person-on-the-street interviews, both the Rag and The City found that, to the extent voters were paying attention, their focus was mainly on the merits (or demerits) of Maloney and Nadler. “I don’t know what [Patel] stands for,” one voter told The City. Another said: “Young blood and new blood is always a good thing, but I don’t know his policies at all.” If you feel similarly in the dark, see above for the link to Patel’s issues page – and those of Maloney and Nadler.
We’re not picking a favorite candidate, but we do have some favorites among the many media stories chronicling this race. Our faves are the three in-depth interviews the Times editorial board did with Maloney, Nadler, and Patel. Each was asked roughly the same questions, including some lighting-round, yes-or-no quizzes (you can find out their favorite restaurants in the district, which member of Congress each most admires, and whether they own or have ever fired a gun).
On a more substantive level, each responded to questions about inflation, protecting democracy, aid to Ukraine, gun violence, and more.
And if you read all three interviews, you can find out whose answers needed the most fact-checking, who filibustered the most (talking at length without directly addressing the question at hand), who sounds the most self-promotional – and who you think would best represent New York’s 12th congressional district in Congress.