One of the hottest primaries in New York state is the race for the new 17th Congressional District. The new map will include Putnam and Rockland counties, as well as a sliver of Dutchess County and a much larger chunk of Westchester.
The reason so many eyes are on this race is that the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the guy in charge of getting Democrats elected — is sort of the incumbent. Sort of, because U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney currently represents the 18th Congressional District, and his decision to run in the 17th put some noses out of joint, including the nose of the congressman who currently represents NY-17 — Mondaire Jones.
Rather than engage in a primary with Maloney, Jones opted to run in the jam-packed NY-10.
But the fracas didn’t end there.
Progressive Democrat and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi was so rankled by Maloney’s decision to run in NY-17 that she opted to primary him even though she didn’t live in the district.
The race is considered a proxy battle between the establishment wing of the Democratic Party and the progressive wing.
Maloney scored a big victory this weekend with the endorsement of The New York Times, which also called Biaggi “a worthy challenger.”
Capital Tonight asked Maloney about the state of the race with just over one week to go.
“I’ve won five times in a district that voted for Donald Trump, and, you know, as a gay guy with an interracial family, that’s not a given. So, I’m used to tough races,” he said. “You go out and make your case.”
The case Maloney wanted to make first was about the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which he called “historic climate change legislation." He also mentioned the recently passed infrastructure and gun bills and a veterans health care bill.
“It’s been a very productive season of successes for the Democratic Party,” Maloney said.
The Democrats finally have a story to tell with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, but the bill does very little to reduce inflation in the short term, though it is expected to reduce the deficit by $264 billion over 10 years, according to the UPenn Wharton School of Business. When asked what the Democrats are doing to help families deal with the high cost of living now, Maloney again pointed to the IRA.
“Let’s be clear, the Inflation Reduction Act is going to dramatically lower prescription drug costs of anybody in the Medicare program. That’s a big deal trying to make ends meet,” he said. “It will also cap, at $2,000 a year, out-of-pocket expenses for our seniors. That’s a game-changer.”
Maloney also mentioned that the nation’s supply chains are being fixed under the just-passed infrastructure bill.
“Look at gas. Gas is now down a dollar a gallon in the last 60 days because the president released the strategic reserve and took other steps to increase supply,” he said. “So, we have a plan to reduce inflation and gas prices. We are not there yet, but we made great progress.”
In response to criticism from the Working Families Party for some votes he took on the Affordable Care Act, Maloney said “of course” he supports the ACA, and that the WFP is simply playing politics.
“The votes that they talked about are 10 years old. They go back to 2013 when the website wasn’t working and I thought people should have a little more time before we fine them,” he said.
Maloney has $2.4 million going into the primary. Additionally, Super PAC money is being spent to elect him. According to City and State, the National Association of Realtors and Police Benevolent Association PAC, among others, have supported him.
The spending has prompted Biaggi’s campaign manager to call Maloney “Wall Street’s favorite politician”.
“That’s a terrible attack,” Maloney responded. “Let’s remember that I’m endorsed by End Citizens United, that is the marquee ‘get big money out of politics’ group.”
He also mentioned that in just the last few weeks, he has supported an assault weapons ban and taken on gun companies by passing the first gun safety legislation in 28 years. He said he took on big oil with the IRA.
“I’m also the guy who banned oil barge anchorages on the Hudson River,” he said “And took on the big drug companies by making them negotiate their prices in the Medicare Program. So talk is cheap.”
Maloney also highlighted the local support he’s received for his campaign from both labor unions and both elected officials and former electeds.
“People like former Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Sen. Peter Harckham, Sen. (Reichlin)-Melnick, and all the Assembly folks, Sandy Galef, Ken Zebrowski, Chris Burdick, and all the Democratic committees that endorse have endorsed me,” said Maloney. “So that’s the real support that matters: the grassroots, local army that we’re building.”