Fireworks on the East Side

As the Democratic Congressional primary nears, Maloney and Patel battle over their records and the future

  • U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney speaks to constituents April 13 at the Anna Silver School on the Lower East Side. Photo: Michael Garofalo

  • Suraj Patel mingles with voters at a town hall on May 24 in an East 88th Street church. Photo: Douglas Feiden

Citing her record and the landmark laws she’s enacted, Rep. Carolyn Maloney sums up her case to the voters: “I’m not finished yet — and there’s much, much, much more that I can do to help people.”

Calling for a new political order and generational change, challenger Suraj Patel boils down his pitch to the electorate like this: “I’m running for Congress because elections ought to be about the future.”

Her resolve and his defiance, her quarter-century of deeds and his vow to break from the old ways, have defined the surprisingly heated Democratic primary race for the 12th Congressional District.

The clash between two liberal, pro-immigrant, anti-Trump Manhattan Democrats — she’s an uptowner, he’s a downtowner — has given voters an X-ray view of both candidates as they head for the polls on June 26.

At stake is a prize that encompasses the Upper East Side, Sutton Place, Roosevelt Island, Midtown, Union Square, Flatiron, the East Village and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. The district, redrawn in 2010, has been Maloney’s political base since she was first elected to Congress in 1992.

That political longevity has made her a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, well respected on both sides of the aisle, with the clout to author and pass 70-plus bills and obtain billions of dollars for the Second Avenue Subway and other monumental projects.

But it’s also provided a cudgel for the 34-year-old, Indiana-raised Patel, an East Villager, to clobber the 72-year-old incumbent, an Upper East Sider, with his calls for “new blood,” a “new generation of leaders” and “better Democrats” who call the “status quo not good enough.”

In their only televised debate of the primary campaign on NY1 on June 12, Patel posited that he “deserves a first term because I’m going to be talking about the future.” By contrast, he argued, “The congresswoman feels she’s entitled to a 14th term simply because she’s already served 13.”

That set the tone for a contentious faceoff in which the heavily favored Maloney demanded of her rival, “What have you done to help people? Besides talk?”

Patel shot back that he was doing “God’s work” as an attorney who has volunteered his services to help the dispossessed, and as a professor who teaches business ethics at NYU.

Maloney retorted by citing an Our Town exclusive questioning his rootedness in the district where he’s running; examining how he’s switched his voter registration between the city, Indianapolis and the Hamptons; and revealing tweets indicating he may have mulled a race to “knock out” a Republican incumbent in Suffolk County.

Patel denied he was shopping for another district in which to run, saying that as an active Democrat who owns an East Hampton vacation home, he simply wanted to see conservative, pro-Trump Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin go down to defeat.

Despite bitter differences, the candidates do have a couple of things in common: Fundraising prowess and unforgiving views of the tenant in the Oval Office.

Maloney, a time-tested fundraiser, took in $1.65 million and had $793,000 in the bank as of June 6, according to federal election filings. The bigger surprise was that first-time political aspirant Patel chalked up $1.23 million, though he’s banked only $41,000.

As for Donald Trump, he runs the “most anti-woman administration of my lifetime,” Maloney says, while Patel brands him “this monster of a president.”

Sign up to get our newsletter emailed to you every week!

Enter your email address in the box below.
Select the newsletters you would like to subscribe to.
Click the 'SUBSCRIBE' button.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters