NEW YORK — Two of New York’s most senior congressmen turned from allies to rivals after a court redrew the state’s congressional maps, blurring the favorable landscape Democrats hoped to create for themselves this election year.
U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler, a major figure in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a champion 9/11 relief worker, are now running against each other in a Democratic primary for represent a reconfigured district in Manhattan.
The intra-party battle is not the outcome Democrats envisioned for the once-a-decade redistricting in a state where they control the governor’s mansion and the Legislative Assembly.
Nadler, 74, and Maloney, 76, were each first elected to Congress 30 years ago and have risen to chair the powerful House Judiciary and Oversight Committees respectively.
Nadler has long represented the Upper West Side and areas extending to Wall Street and parts of Brooklyn, while Maloney’s longtime territory was across Central Park: the Upper East Side. , as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
But when a state court unveiled the new maps on May 16, merging the Upper East Side and Upper West Side into a single congressional district — the 12th — veteran lawmakers huddled on the floor of the Bedroom. Each tried to persuade the other to run elsewhere.
“I said I thought if we ran against each other in the 12th I would probably win, so she should run in the 10th. Why didn’t she run in the 10th? She would clear the field and no one else would run, in all likelihood,” Nadler said. “She said, ‘No, no, no. “She thought she was going to win, and why didn’t I run into the 10? And I said no, I didn’t want to do that. And it was a dead end and we left it there.
“We’ve known each other for a very, very long time and since then we really haven’t spoken,” Nadler said.
Maloney, whose campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests from The Associated Press, similarly recounted their conversation in an interview with the New York Post, saying she thought he wouldn’t have not asked if she was a man.
“All my life people have told me I shouldn’t be where I am, so I’m not surprised he told me to step down,” she said. “The time of women withdrawing is over.”
For Democrats, New York was meant to be one of the party’s few opportunities across states to draw new district lines in their favor and possibly limit losses in the November election.
But then the wheels came off.
After a successful legal challenge by Republicans produced new court-drawn maps of Congress, Democrats found themselves with tougher battles against Republicans and each other.
Now that Nadler and Maloney are facing each other in the 12th Precinct, with Democrat Suraj Patel, there is an open seat just to the south winding up in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
It drew a crowded field of at least 10 Democrats, including former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones, who decided to jump out of his Hudson Valley district after the news cards put him on a collision course with another Democrat, U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney.
Maloney’s 18th District lines were also changed under the court’s rewrite, cutting his home from Cold Spring into the reconfigured 17th District. He quickly said he would run in 17th, a move that angered other New York Democrats who saw it as unfair to Jones, who now represents that district.
It even earned him a main challenge from progressive Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who announced she would take it in 17th, even though she doesn’t live there.
Maloney defended his decision, noting that no other incumbent Democrats lived in the 17th District – because Jones’ home was taken to the new 16th District, much of which is owned by another Democrat, U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman.
“From my perspective, I’m just running where I landed,” Maloney said at a press conference last month.
Jones told the AP he was considering running in the 17th, ‘but ultimately it was important to me, as a leader in the fight to defend our democracy from far-right threats. , to not be in a primary with one of my two colleagues from the Hudson Valley, and to focus on defending my case in a district with which I feel a deep connection.
His case is that it’s time for an openly gay man to represent the new 10th District, which includes the West Village and the Stonewall Inn, an underground gay bar where a police raid in 1969 sparked a backlash that led the LGBTQ rights movement.
“It was through my visits to the West Village that I found the courage to come out as an openly gay man,” Jones said. “It’s crazy that the place where Stonewell performed, an LGBTQ liberation movement, born out of queer people of color, never had a gay representative in congress.”
The new cards didn’t just upend the political careers and collegiate relationships of New York Democrats. They also upended the party’s national plans to increase its chances of retaining power in the US House of Representatives.
Before being invalidated by a state court, the maps of congressional districts originally drawn by the state legislature would have given Democrats a strong majority in 22 of the 26 congressional districts.
“The Democrats decided to roll the dice and it didn’t work,” said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, who called the Legislature maps “one of the gerrymanders the most more aggressive” among states this year.
Democrats currently hold 19 of New York’s 27 districts, but the state is losing one as a result of the 2020 census.
The new maps, drawn by a court-appointed expert, give the Democrats an advantage in 21 of the 26 districts, but some of them will be much more competitive and could be won by the Republicans.
Ultimately, they are fairer, Li said.
“If they’re not happy with the cards,” he said of Democrats, “one of the places they have to look if they have to blame themselves is themselves.”