Representative Sean Patrick Maloney’s decision last week to leave his current congressional district to campaign for a colleague’s safer seat infuriated fellow Democrats, who deemed the actions unacceptable to the man charged with protecting of their majority in the House.
On Monday, a progressive New York lawmaker, Alessandra Biaggi, said she would try to get in his way, channeling the anger of the party’s left wing to the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a primary challenge.
“I’m sure he’ll say, ‘This hurts the party, she doesn’t care about being a Democrat,'” Ms Biaggi, a state senator from Westchester County, said in an interview. She emphatically referred to herself as a “proud Democrat. What hurt the party was that the head of the campaign arm is not staying in his district, not maximizing the number of seats New York can have to maintain the majority.”
Ms. Biaggi plans to formally announce her candidacy for the August 23 primary on Tuesday.
She had already run for Congress in the nearby Third District, campaigning against a “lack of urgency in Washington” and for policies such as single-payer health care. But when a state court on Friday finalized new rules that removed the Westchester portions of the district, Ms. Biaggi decided to change course.
Ms Biaggi called Mr Maloney “a selfish corporate Democrat.” She drew a straight line between her campaign and his recently announced decision to leave much of his current territory in the Hudson Valley to work in a safer, reconfigured 17th congressional district currently represented by a black progressive.
Democrats across the political spectrum rejected the move last week, when it looked like it would force Representative Mondaire Jones into a primary fight with either Maloney or Representative Jamaal Bowman, a fellow black progressive in a neighboring seat. Instead, Mr. Jones chose to avoid the conflict altogether and announced an open seat campaign miles away in New York City.
But Democrats in the party’s progressive wing, some of whom had considered demanding Mr Maloney’s resignation, are not ready to release him and are lining up behind Ms Biaggi.
“Biaggi has been a voice for justice since she entered the state Senate,” Bowman said in an interview. “She has also been a voice for accountability and urged our party to do better.”
He called Mr. Maloney’s decision to leave the 18th district he has long represented — which could spill over to Republicans in the fall — “completely unacceptable to a leader of our party whose job it is to retain a majority.” He said he would support Ms Biaggi, but stopped issuing an official endorsement.
“Leadership requires sacrifice and leadership requires selflessness,” said Mr Bowman, who defeated another high-ranking Democrat in a 2020 primary.
Another member of the New York City House delegation, who asked not to be named to speak candidly, echoed that assessment, suggesting that Ms. Biaggi could gain significant support.
It wouldn’t be the first time Ms. Biaggi, 36, has hired an established Democratic leader.
She was first elected to the state Senate in 2018, when she was the face of a wave of younger lawmakers who overthrew six conservative Democratic incumbent officials who had led the chamber in a power-sharing deal with Republicans. . In her victory over Jeffrey D. Klein, a former leader of the breakaway group known as the Independent Democratic Conference, Ms. Beat Biaggi nearly 10 to one.
But this time, the chance could be even greater.
Mr. Maloney, 55, will enter the race with a lot more money, brand awareness and institutional party support. The fifth-term congressman had more than $2 million in the bank by the end of March and, given his ties as party leader, could easily get a lot more outside support if needed. (Mrs. Biaggi said she had about $200,000 in her campaign account.)
Although Democrats have complained that Maloney is running in a district that makes up about 70 percent of Jones’ current voters, the party chairman is living within the new rules. Ms. Biaggi does not live in the newly formed district, nor does her current Westchester State Senate District overlap with the new seat.
And while Maloney has sparked anger from fellow Democrats in New York, he maintains the support of Chairman Nancy Pelosi.
Mia Ehrenberg, a campaign spokeswoman for Maloney, praised his track record and said the congresswoman would work hard to win voters’ support.
“Representative Maloney has served the Hudson Valley for nearly a decade, fighting every day for working families, good jobs and to protect the environment,” she said.
Ms. Biaggi, a Fordham-trained attorney and granddaughter of a Bronx congressman, served as an aide to former government leader Andrew M. Cuomo and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign before winning the election.
In the state Senate, she helped pass an overhaul that tightened New York’s sexual harassment laws, became known as an outspoken critic of Mr. Cuomo, and was a trusted member of the chamber’s growing left wing, which urged, among other things, on single-payer health care.
Some of those positions could be a liability race for Congress in a more conservative district, which includes large suburbs and rural areas. Ms Biaggi, for example, was an outspoken critic of police forces and called for austerity measures, often using the term “defund the police.”
Ms. Biaggi said Monday she no longer used the term but would still push for changes to the way American cities are monitored, and provide other services to the people who live in them. “Whether I use the term or not is irrelevant because my principles are the same,” she said.
Those who emerge from the Democratic primary in August are likely to face a difficult general election in November. The district voted for President Biden in 2020 by an 8-point margin, but Republicans believe the party has a good chance of turning it around this fall.
Michael Lawler, a former Republican staffer who currently represents Rockland County in the State Assembly, announced his candidacy on Monday and is expected to lead the way.
“Make no mistake, the record inflation, record crime and endless series of crises that defined Biden’s presidency are Sean Maloney’s record,” said Mr. Lawler, 35.
With the new cards in place, other candidates continued to trickle into high-profile House races on Monday.
In Manhattan, Suraj Patel, a lawyer and perennial candidate, announced that he would continue to run in the Democratic primary for the 12th district, challenging Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler even after they were pulled through the courts in a single district. .
Mr Patel was close to beating Ms Maloney in a 2020 primary and ran into her this year before the cards were reconfigured.
Separately, after weeks of inactivity, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Representative Antonio Delgado would be sworn in as her lieutenant governor on Wednesday. On that date, the governor could schedule a special election to temporarily replace Mr. Delgado’s Hudson Valley House on the same August day as the Congressional primaries.