The first duty of any politician who chairs one of the myriad campaign committees of the Democratic or Republican parties is to protect his party’s office bearers, whether they are state legislators, governors, or members of the House of Representatives.
This sometimes means missing out on the opportunity to take a seat, and instead spending time and money protecting a vulnerable member. That means helping those members send messages, hiring key employees, and spending thousands of dollars on ads, if it’s to help them win again.
Generally speaking and for obvious reasons this is not meant to directly challenge one of those members in the primary.
But that’s exactly what New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, who now chairs the campaign arm of House Democrats, apparently decided to do so this week when a court released maps of possible new congressions in his home state. .
“While the process of drawing these maps without the legislature is against the will of voters, if the newly announced maps are finalized, I will run in New York’s 17th congressional district,” Maloney said. wrote on twitter on Monday. “NY-17 includes my home and many of the Hudson Valley communities that I currently represent.”
The 17th district is currently represented by Rep. Mondaire Jones, a first-time progressive, one of the first two openly gay black men elected to Congress. It’s a little more friendlier to Democrats than the 18th District: Joe Biden won the 17th District by 10 points and the 18th District by 8 points in 2020.
Maloney’s decision to potentially challenge Jones – whose only available option is to challenge a different incumbent member, Representative Jamal Bowman (D.N.Y.) – caused a substantial intraparty Donniebrook, well-received by Politico. has been chronicled.
Members of the swing district are privately discussing ousting Maloney as chairman of the Democratic congressional campaign committee, even though the brutally difficult midterm election is only six months away. Progressive members are not quietly criticizing him for suggesting that he is a better “fit” to represent a mostly white suburban district.
“The clichéd racism here is deeply depressing. Is a black man ideologically ill-equipped to represent the Westchester County district he currently represents and won decisively in 2020?” Representative Richie Torres (DN.Y.), another first-term progressive, wrote on twitter, “Offensive.”
Maloney insists that his motives are innocent: He lives in the 17th district, and the district covers two of the four counties he has represented for a decade. He does not want to move his family.
His colleagues also noted the original map approved by the state legislature, which Maloney played a major role in crafting, actually put him in a more difficult district than either of the two districts he theoretically today. could drive. (The New York Court of Appeals ruled the original map a partisan gerrymander, in violation of the state’s constitution.)
In a news conference Tuesday, Maloney said that “a broken process has produced a broken result.”
“From my point of view, I’m running where I landed,” he said. “If anyone else is also looking at the district, obviously we’ll try to work through that as allies and friends, ultimately it’s up to the voters, and that’s what it should be.”
Still, critics say Maloney’s move sends the wrong message to his fellow Democrats on several fronts:
• In the grand scheme of things, the difference between a Biden +8 seat and a Biden +10 seat is not very significant. But when you’re the guy to win tough seats for Democrats, choosing to run in a safe seat signals a lack of confidence in the party’s prospects.
• Also, an incumbent like Maloney is more likely to be able to grab a Biden +8 seat than a newcomer in a GOP-leaning midterm election.
• The Democratic Party has explicitly pushed for an increase in the number of black and Latino members of Congress in recent years, and challenging one of the youngest black members of Congress goes against that overarching goal.
It’s possible that the Maloney vs. Jones primary may never happen. Jones could instead contest in the 19th district, which is now the undisputed Democratic seat held by Bowman. But Bowman, who is also Black, is part of a group of progressive lawmakers known as “The Squad” and will almost certainly have the support of the Progressive Coalition’s majority.
Max Berger, a progressive strategist who was one of the co-founders of Justice Democrats, said, “Trying to oust Bowman will never give Mondair any chance to gain national recognition and possibly end his career.” Will be done.” wrote on twitter, “Terrible choice.”
There is also a chance that this whole conversation is moot. The courts of New York State appointed Jonathan Servas, a political scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, to serve as a special master and prepare Congressional maps. What they released on Monday is officially a draft, and the final version scheduled for unveiling on Friday could be quite different.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D.N.Y.), the fourth-highest-ranking House Democrat and Maloney’s ally, has already slammed the special master-draw map as racist to attract multiple black members of Congress to the same district. .
“The draft map redistribution shamelessly targets historical black representation in NY, and places four black members of Congress in the same districts,” Jeffries wrote in an email to supporters Tuesday night. “The new map only adds to the unnecessary national pattern targeting districts represented by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. This tactic would make Jim Crow blush.”