Source: Our Town NY
By Douglas Feiden
Beating back the toughest political challenge of her quarter-century Congressional career, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney triumphed over first-time candidate Suraj Patel on June 26 in the Democratic primary race to hold on to her East Side seat.
The 72-year-old incumbent’s victory over the 34-year-old insurgent in the 12th Congressional District was comfortable, but not commanding: She tallied 24,223 votes and he scored 16,995, giving her a 7,228-vote margin in a district that also includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
As a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and the author of 70-plus bills, Maloney holds what has long been viewed as a safe seat, and she had defended it in the 2016 primary by eviscerating rival Pete Lindner by more than 80 percent.
This year was different. Maloney, who has already served 13 terms, survived Patel’s appeal to millennials, and his demand for generational change and a new political order that would lean left. But with her 58.4 percent of the ballot to his 41 percent — a 17.4-percent margin — it was no landslide.
Still, Maloney prevailed as a political tsunami engulfed her longtime colleague, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, another entrenched incumbent, in a district taking in parts of Queens and the Bronx, who had been seen as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if the Democrats retake the House in the midterms or as minority leader if they don’t.
Like Patel, the upset victor in that race, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, was a first-time, left-of-center minority candidate — a millennial who focused on diversity, new blood in politics and the imperative of taking down a long-serving pillar of the Washington establishment.
The Indiana-raised Patel, an East Village resident, injected energy into the campaign — and an original approach that included campaigning at yoga classes, gym workouts, meditations sessions and happy hours. He deployed dating apps like Tinder to reach voters and even passed out branded #SurajForNY condoms.
“Wanna know what’s super sexy?” one post asked. “VOTING!”
The appeal appeared to resonate with younger voters downtown and in the portions of the district that take in Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. And it didn’t hurt that Patel was able to raise $1.23 million for his first-ever campaign, although Maloney outpointed him with $1.65 million.
None of that was enough to overcome Maloney’s legislative record — which includes passage of landmark laws like the James Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Act of 2011, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights in 2009 and the Debbie Smith Act of 2004 to fund testing of old rape kits.
She may also have benefited from questions about his rootedness in the district. An Our Town exclusive earlier this month had examined how he switched his voter registration between the city, Indianapolis and the Hamptons, and revealed tweets indicating he may have mulled a race to “knock out” a Republican incumbent in Suffolk County.
Patel denied he was district-shopping and said that as an active Democrat and owner of an East Hampton vacation home, he simply wanted to see conservative, pro-Trump Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin go down to defeat.
Maloney also enjoyed the all-but unanimous support of unions, lobbyists, political clubhouses and fellow elected officials, and the old-fashioned grip she maintained on establishment players helped put her over the top.
“Thank you to the voters for honoring me with the Democratic nomination for #NY12,” she tweeted as the results came in. “I will continue doing all I can to fight back against Trump’s hateful agenda — and make sure we take back the House in November!”