Democratic Party establishment insider Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and multi-millionaire Dan Goldman secured wins in their respective battles in New York’s primary on Tuesday, dashing hopes of more progressive challengers in a turbulent year upended by redrawn congressional districts in the state.
Maloney, chair of the powerful Democracy Congressional Campaign Committee, which controls the party’s election year war chest for House candidates, fended off progressive challenger state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in the 17th District who said as she launched her campaign that the Democratic Party “should be led by fearless champions — not selfish, corporate politicians.”
While Biaggi was endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and numerous left-leaning advocacy groups, Maloney took 67% of the vote compared to her 33%.
In New York’s 10th District, a crowded field of progressive candidates — including state assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones, and city council member Carlina Rivera — split progressive-leaning voters to give Goldman, a prosecutor, former legal analyst for MSNBC, and wealthy heir to the Levi Strauss fortune who spent millions on his own campaign, a narrow victory over Niou.
In a speech to supporters late Tuesday night, Niou — who received 24% of the vote compared to Goldman’s 26% — said that topping the crowded progressive field in the district showed why her approach — “betting on people” — was key, even in a narrow defeat to the self-funded campaign by an ultra-wealthy candidate who had the controversial blessing of the New York Times editorial board. “We have shown them why betting on people is always the right choice,” Niou said.
— Blake Deadly | Vote Yuh-Line for NY10 (@blakepruitt) August 24, 2022
As it looked clear Tuesday night that Goldman would pull out a win, the Super PAC funded by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC announced it was glad to have spent hundreds of thousands dollars to help defeat Niou’s progressive campaign.
“We are proud to have played a role,” but not so proud that we would reveal the source of the super PAC funding before the polls closed https://t.co/p3J4djEcHP
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) August 24, 2022
The complexity and contentiousness of this year’s primary in New York was largely due to redestricting which led many, including several incumbents like Jones, moving districts and facing large fields of candidates. For his part, Jones opted not to face off against Maloney in the 17th, which opened the door for Biaggi’s challenge, but ended up coming in behind both Niou and Goldman in the 10th.
As progressive columnist Ross Barkin noted on social media, “The big loss of the night is probably for Mondaire Jones, who will see his one term in Congress come to a close but not in a holy war that would’ve united the left against Sean Patrick Maloney. Instead, he’ll probably be blamed for cutting into Yuh-Line Niou’s votes.”
Many on the left had openly worried about progressives running in the 10th splitting votes and giving Goldman a path to victory, and just two weeks before the primary Niou and Jones held a rare joint press conference in which they accused Goldman of using his vast wealth to “buy” the congressional seat.
Well, clearly the progressives all had an issue with Goldman – Jones and Niou held a joint presser attacking him last week – so why not find a way to stop him, rather than allowing him to win with a quarter of the vote?
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) August 24, 2022
While Niou’s supporters express disappointment in her narrow loss in the Democratic primary, it was already being suggested that she may still have a path to win the 10th District’s congressional seat if she was willing to take Goldman on in the general election as a Working Families Party candidate. The WFP endorsed Niou in the primary and retains a ballot line in federal elections in the state so that it can run candidates when it chooses.
Alexander Sammon of The American Prospect explored this idea ahead of the Tuesday’s results and explained:
The stakes are high enough for the progressive groups backing these candidates to force this sort of post-August realignment. And if the WFP does put up Niou on their third-party line in November, it would be the highest-profile instance of this since 2003, when Letitia James, now New York’s attorney general, ran against Democratic nominee Geoffrey Davis in Brooklyn’s 35th City Council District, and won.
There are understandable reasons why this course of action by the WFP has been used sparingly. But if that option isn’t pursued in this case, it would be hard to see why the party fought so hard to keep its ballot line in the first place.
Niou’s performance on Tuesday led many in her camp to conclude that she has everything it takes to win on a more level playing field against Goldman in November.
Winnie Wong, senior advisor on the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign and vocal backer of Niou, made her position clear after seeing the available results Tuesday evening.
“The WFP should run YLN against Dan Goldman in the general,” Wong tweeted. “That’s my final answer.”