the city politic

The Times Sticks It to Progressives

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Corbis via Getty Images

On the first day of early voting ahead of New York’s August 23 Democratic primaries for the House, the New York Times editorial board made its long-anticipated endorsements. For Jerry Nadler, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Dan Goldman, it was the endorsement they likely craved most. For those who lost out — and there were many — it was a serious blow, one they will have to battle to overcome in the next ten days.

All of this is obvious and not particularly new. The Times’ backing in high-profile local contests has always mattered. The national Democratic electorate is not merely comprised of the college-educated and those who routinely consume flowery news copy. In New York City and its surrounding suburbs, though, a Times endorsement can often be decisive. The publication’s most loyal readers, densely packed into Manhattan and the affluent quarters of Brooklyn, eagerly await the paper’s word. And in a diminished media environment where the tabloids, hit by budget cuts, can’t pack the same punch, the Times looms even larger.

With the exception of Nadler, who was basically forced into running against his colleague, Carolyn Maloney, the choices were surprising. The newspaper often prizes identity and gender when choosing candidates. Its co-endorsement of Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar in the 2020 Democratic primary was about electing the first female president. In 2021, the Times backed Kathryn Garcia, who was seeking to become the first female mayor of New York. Like other elite institutions in the past few years, the Times has striven to diversify its own ranks and embrace at least some of the precepts popularized by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. Yet in choosing three white men for Congress, the newspaper’s editorial board seems to be, implicitly at least, pivoting in a different direction.

What is just as notable is the Times’ growing disdain for the progressive left. Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has long warred with Democrats in his own district and aligned himself with the party’s centrist wing. When Andrew Cuomo was governor, Maloney was one of his closest allies, and the two unabashedly fundraised from the same real estate and corporate interests. In 2018, Maloney ran for state attorney general in a bid that was interpreted by many to be chiefly focused on kneecapping the rising progressive — and fierce Cuomo critic — Zephyr Teachout. Maloney did not win, but neither did Teachout. These days, the Police Benevolent Association is spending more than $400,000 to attack Maloney’s opponent on the left, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi. Two years ago, the PBA backed Donald Trump’s reelection. (Maloney, who is openly gay, has denounced Trump plenty.)

For the Times, the Maloney decision seemed mostly about the practical reality that he’d make a better general election candidate in a swing district than Biaggi. Maloney has won tough general elections before; Biaggi has only competed in difficult primaries. Biaggi’s “politics are more progressive than those of many of its residents,” the Times argued, also noting she had just moved to the district. Maloney, however, had chosen the seat (he does live there) after the redistricting process. His choice intimidated Mondaire Jones, a popular progressive who may have been pitted against Maloney, enough that he left for Brooklyn, where is now running in the new Tenth District.

In the Tenth, roping in downtown Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, Jones appeared close to receiving the Times’ backing. But his lack of connection to the city appeared too great to overcome. Instead of endorsing one of the two competitive female, nonwhite contenders, City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, the editorial board opted for Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who is best known for working on the first Trump impeachment. Goldman, the lone straight white male among the frontline contenders, at first glance did not seem like an obvious choice for the Times. An heir to the Levi Strauss fortune with a net worth potentially beyond $250 million, Goldman is partially self-funding his bid, having already kicked in $1 million of his own money. He has deluged the district with TV ads, and unlike his top rivals, he has never held elected office before. The Times seemed nonetheless impressed by his record and work ethic, commenting that “those who have worked with Mr. Goldman behind the scenes describe him as diligent and prepared and a person of integrity.”

Neither Niou nor Rivera were mentioned at all in the endorsement. This was likely intentional. After helping to elevate Garcia, a technocratic liberal who was an unabashed backer of the police and a skeptic of far-reaching criminal-justice reform, the Times appears ready to anoint a similar style of Democrat. Goldman shares much of Garcia’s politics. He supports Mayor Eric Adams’s crusade to further weaken reforms to the bail process passed in Albany three years ago. He is also proud ally of the real-estate industry and Wall Street, where he is pulling donations. And Goldman is, figuratively and literally, an MSNBC liberal: He built a large social-media following making frequent cable-TV appearances. He still gets free publicity this way. In choosing Goldman, the Times has signaled it cares more about liberal resistance-style politics — Goldman is fiercely anti-Trump — than what is, for lack of a better term, identity politics.

The practical boost for Goldman is likely to be real. He can run TV ads and send mailers touting the endorsement. For the many voters who are just now checking into the race, the Times will offer a compelling shorthand. Nadler, Maloney, and Goldman are now, unquestionably, the front-runners headed into August 23.

Correction: This piece has been updated to clarify that Sean Patrick Maloney’s old district, NY-18, was redistricted to become more Democratic.

The Times Endorsements Stick It to Progressives