BY THE VILLAGE SUN | In addition to the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, congressional races will top the ballot for Downtown voters.
A slew of progressive candidates are hoping that they will be “the next Alexandria O’Casio-Cortez” and knock off either of two longtime incumbents.
The 12th District features a rematch between Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel — who won 40 percent of the vote against her two years ago — plus two other candidates, Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison.
The district includes the Upper East Side, Stuyvesant Town, the East Village and part of the Lower East Side and, in Queens and Brooklyn, Astoria, Long Island City and Greenpoint.
Maloney was first elected to Congress in 1992. She currently chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the first woman to hold that position.
Maloney authored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and its reauthorization — co-sponsored by Jerrold Nadler — to ensure that those suffering from 9/11-related health ailments get needed help and compensation.
She also penned the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights in 2009, which has reportedly saved consumers $16 billion annually since its passage. Maloney spearheaded the Debbie Smith Act, to erase the backlog of DNA rape-testing kits. And she sponsored the Never Again Education Act, which funds education programs through the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum.
The congressmember currently has authored a bill, according to a campaign mailer, “to zero out student debt for…frontline healthcare workers, and supporting debt cancellation for all.” She supports the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and criminal justice reform.
Patel, who lives in the East Village, has been an adjunct professor of business ethics at New York University’s Stern School of Business since 2015. He was an advance person for President Obama. For the past nine years, he has been president of Sun Development & Management Corp., a company his immigrant father founded in 1989, which manages 32 hotels around the country.
In his campaign literature, among other things, he promises, if elected, to work to “end mass incarceration, police brutality and institutional racism.”
Two years ago, he ran strongly in the Queens and northern Brooklyn parts of the district, thanks to young liberal voters, many of whom had moved into new residential developments there.
Patel has criticized Maloney for sponsoring nine so-called “anti-vaxxer” bills in Congress. It’s true that Maloney, in the past, has expressed concern about the effect on young children of receiving multiple vaccinations all at once; but she now says she does not believe there is a link between vaccines and autism.
Patel has also hammered Maloney for taking corporate PAC money while he does not.
In the 2018 race, Patel came under fire for directing his staffers to create fake dating profiles on sites like Tinder and Grindr to go “catfishing” for votes. Staff were encouraged to “pick a stock hottie photo,” instead of using their own, to trick voters.
Also in the last race, a Maloney campaign spokesperson, George Arzt, accused Patel of not having the political experience to win, though credited him with being a good fundraiser.
“He cannot depend on his wealthy Indiana family indefinitely and he will need a lot more than that to create an identity, record and reputation to sway the people,” Arzt told Politico.
Meanwhile, Patel blasted Maloney after she noted that his contributions included a large number from Indiana and “a huge amount of the name Patel,” which is a common Indian last name. Maloney was trying to highlight that much of Patel’s fundraising was from out of state, but Patel saw it differently.
Asked about the congressmember’s comment, Patel told BuzzFeed News, “I guess I didn’t realize Rep. Maloney hired Steve Bannon as her campaign strategist.”
Ashcraft, a self-dubbed Democratic Socialist, has a background as a policy analyst, project manager and data analyst. In 2017, she got involved with the Women’s March NYC as a project manager and fundraiser, and recently became a board member and volunteer with the Women’s March Alliance.
She was a founder of Collection Box Comedy, whose monthly comedy shows, over nearly the past four years, have raised $10,000 for everything from women’s rights and feeding the hungry to animal rescue and prison reform.
Ashcraft is also involved with the Justice Committee of the East Village’s Middle Collegiate Church.
Among her campaign planks, she supports mandatory vaccinations and universal rent control. She also endorses decriminalizing all drug usage and legalizing cannabis and psychedelic drugs.
Asked by a caller during a Q&A where she stands on B.D.S, Ashcraft said she supports Israel’s right to exist but added, “I do not condemn B.D.S.,” referring to the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement against Israel.
Harrison, who is campaigning foremost as a housing advocate, has lived in Stuyvesant Town for 11 years. He also identifies as a Democratic Socialist.
If elected, he commits to “fight[ing] for universal rent control, building 12 million new, permanently affordable homes, and making sure working people of all ages can afford to live in NYC whether they want to own or rent.”
The four candidates recently debated on NY1.
Village Democratic District Leader Arthur Schwartz is backing Ashcraft, calling her the most progressive candidate in the race. He, too, said a lot of Maloney’s contributions come from PACs. He conceded that Patel is a prolific fundraiser.
“He raised a lot of money, and it is possible that in a one-on-one, he could beat her,” the district leader said. “I don’t think she took him seriously in 2018.”
However, Schwartz said Patel ultimately comes off as “too slick.”
Some also think that Patel hasn’t been active enough in local community affairs since running against Maloney two years ago, and that he has now “parachuted in” again to seek office.
Tony Hoffmann, a leading member of the Village Independent Democrats club, agrees.
“Lots of candidates ‘parachute in,'” he said. “Chris Marte parachuted in. But he cares, he stuck around, he paid his dues and showed us who he is. Whereas, Patel did not hang around.”
Marte, who grew up on the Lower East Side, ran for City Council against Margaret Chin a few years ago and narrowly lost, then eventually won election to the Democratic State Committee.
In District 10, incumbent Representative Jerrold Nadler has two challengers, Lindsey Boylan and Jonathan Herzog.
The district stretches from Morningside Heights down the West Side, through Chelsea, the Village, Soho and Tribeca to the Financial District and, in Brooklyn, includes the Red Hook and Bay Ridge waterfronts and Borough Park.
Nadler, who lives on the Upper West Side, was, like Maloney, first elected to Congress in 1992. As the chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, he of course notably led impeachment hearings against President Trump.
Nadler’s signature issues have been civil rights, including L.G.B.T.Q. rights, women’s rights and racial justice, First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and religion, transportation, supporting Israel and economic and social justice.
Boylan, 35, lives in Chelsea, where she is a member of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club. She formerly worked in state government, in economic development, and was an aide to Governor Cuomo. She says she played an important role in pushing for the $15 minimum wage. Her key issues are climate change, mental health and “protecting democracy.” On the latter point, she was a vocal advocate for impeaching Trump.
Boylan’s says her own family struggled with mental health issues, and she feels more needs to be done on the issues of suicide, addiction and mental health, in general.
Herzog, 24, worked for Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign in Iowa but then quit and decided to run for office himself. He supports the idea of a universal basic income, or U.B.I., which was Yang’s cornerstone issue.
Robert Gottheim, a spokesperson for the Nadler campaign, said this may be an era of political upstarts but that Nadler has a solid track record as a progressive lawmaker and will hold his own.
“Everyone wants to be the next AOC,” he shrugged. “It’s not going to happen here.”
The District 10 candidates recently debated on NY1; police reform and Mayor de Blasio’s handling of the Black Lives Matter protests were among the topics.
For more information on the candidates for the 10th and 12th districts, check out their answers to the Jim Owles Liberal Democrat Club’s questionnaire — including the question, if elected, whether they would join “The Squad.”