Sean Patrick Maloney fended off a significant primary challenge from the left, defeating State Senator Alessandra Biaggi in a win for the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. It marks the end of a bitter primary that saw the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair and his progressive challenger heaving insults back and forth in one of the ugliest races in New York’s second primary election this summer.
After Democrats tried to restrict themselves to a lopsided advantage over Republicans, the state’s highest court struck down their proposal and ordered a new district map to be drawn, which upended the political order across the state. Maloney, who currently represents the 18th District, decided to run in the neighboring 17th District, represented by Mondaire Jones, which was drawn to include his home Cold Spring. Ultimately, Jones moved to Brooklyn to pursue another term in Congress in the new Tenth District, and Maloney was accused by some of shoving him out.
The discontent with Maloney over this and his status as a member of the party’s leadership and a moderate helped fuel Biaggi’s challenge from the left. It was a familiar sequel to her 2018 bid for the State Senate where she challenged and defeated Jeff Klein, a longtime incumbent and head of the Independent Democratic Conference who outspent her by significant margins.
Though she received prominent endorsements from the Working Families Party and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they were no match for the heavyweight support of Maloney by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former president Bill Clinton, the New York Times editorial board, and a substantial number of labor unions including the New York AFL-CIO.
Biaggi was attacked for previously calling for defunding the police, especially by the Police Benevolent Association. Then in the closing week of the race, she appeared to embrace a negative mailer that referenced a tweet she wrote last month suggesting that politicians “past child-bearing age” won’t fight as hard for the political issues that matter most to voters, such as abortion rights.
“Every tweet that was used in a mailer was taken out of context, or what I was talking about [was],” Biaggi said following her defeat. “I think part of what is really important about politics is in the street fight, you will pounce on a vulnerability or a perceived vulnerability to try to win. And I think that for someone like myself that, like, loves contexts, and likes nuance and actually likes to have, like, meaningful debate and thought, I think that the lesson is that it’s really important to make sure that the context is all together in a distinct way as possible. At the end of the day, having a corporate interest, special interest, all of these things that flooded into this race, is like a big reason why we lost.”
Maloney will go on to face Republican assemblymember Michael Lawler in November for the opportunity to represent the 17th District, which covers Rockland and Putnam Counties and parts of Westchester County. It’s expected to be a competitive race that will help determine which party controls the House next year.
— With additional reporting by Timmy Facciola in Pleasantville.