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In what became a hotly contentious race for the new 12th congressional district, veteran congressman Jerry Nadler pulled ahead to defeat former fellow Democratic ally and incumbent Carolyn Maloney as well as progressive challengers Suraj Patel and Ashmi Sheth.
Declaring a margin of victory of nearly double Maloney’s votes, Nadler spoke to his campaign team and constituents from his election night party at Arte Cafe on the Upper West Side.
Surrounded by his family, including grandchildren that he thanked “despite not being old enough to vote for me,” Nadler addressed the crowd: “I stand before you deeply humbled to be your Democratic nominee for New York’s 12th Congressional District,” he said to cheers. “I’m humbled by the way we worked together to achieve this victory — we won with votes from the East Side and the West Side, Gramercy and Riverside, New Yorkers young and old. We built a coalition of stagehands in Chelsea, nurses in Yorkville, and yes — maybe a professor or two on the Upper West Side,” he joked.
“I’m humbled that so many New Yorkers found themselves moved by our shared belief in principled progressivism,” he added. “And I will return to Congress to fight for the causes so many of us know to be right. But most of all I’m humbled by the examples of the New York leaders who came before me — ” name-checking Bella Abzug and William Fitts Ryan as politicians who “fought like New Yorkers with compassion and in equal measure” for human rights.
Turning to his competitors for the job, Nadler told the crowd: “I spoke with Congresswoman Maloney and Mr Patel by phone this evening, both of whom graciously conceded, and I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge each of them. Suraj is an exceptionally bright and committed young leader, and this race was made stronger for his candidacy — the city needs more voices like his pushing its leaders to meet its needs of tomorrow. Carolyn Maloney and I have spent much of our adult lives working together to better both New York and our nation. I speak for everyone in this room tonight when I thank her for her decades of service to our city.”
It was an exceptionally diplomatic moment in a campaign which pitted longtime friends Nadler and Maloney against each other in a cage match for congress that at times had turned nasty. Despite relatively common campaign policies and 30-year records of service from both Nadler and Maloney, each accused the other of not doing enough for their constituents, while challenger Patel has repeatedly criticized the candidates as being set in their ways.
In the run-up to the day’s vote, Maloney was said to privately have called Nadler “half-dead” and publicly encouraged voters to read a New York Post editorial declaring the candidate as senile (CNN), while Nadler responded to the network that “it’s obviously not true that I’m half dead, it’s obviously not true that I’m senile — but I’m not going to comment on other campaigns. Let them flail away.”
The Candidates’ West Westside stories
While the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats voted to support Maloney, West Side City Council Members Gale Brewer and Erik Bottcher, Democratic nominee for the 75th Assembly district Tony Simone and state Senator Brad Hoylman all publicly endorsed Nadler and many of them were at Monday night’s victory party, in addition to New York City comptroller Brad Lander and former New York City comptroller Scott Stringer. Nadler gave an election night nod to “all the Democratic clubs” that endorsed him, without mentioning the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats by name.
Nadler was also endorsed by the New York Times, who deemed Maloney unfit for the job due to her “troubling history of promoting false information linking vaccines to autism” (the candidate has since denied that she is against vaccines) and Patel not having a substantial enough record. Neither the Times nor any of the major news outlets lent significant coverage nor endorsement to Sheth, a former associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who did not qualify for the debates leading up to election night.
Maloney and Sheth had not yet released concession statements at the time of publication as Patel accepted the loss from Midtown’s 5th & Mad, adding on Twitter: “That was the campaign of a lifetime, my family, my team, our supporters, and volunteers, I could not be more proud, humbled and honored to work with you all.”
But the mood at Arte Cafe was jubilant as Nadler basked in the glow of retaining West and East side voters ahead of November’s general election, while vowing to fight for the city and country at large.
“Now we don’t face the same fights today that Bella Abzug faced in her day, but we face vast challenges,” said Nadler, referencing the turmoil of the Trump years and beyond. “Insurrectionists were elected and roam the halls of Congress. A stacked Supreme Court has bulldozed our rights and wants to eliminate even more. Gun violence permeates every corner of our country. And with sea levels rising and temperatures soaring, the future of this planet has never been more at risk. I know how overwhelming these challenges can feel. I know that when confronted with fights as massive as those that lie before us, it can feel impossible to do anything but surrender. But here’s the thing. I’m a New Yorker, just like Bella Abzug and Ted Weiss and Bill Ryan and Ruth Messenger. And we New Yorkers just don’t know how to surrender — New Yorkers stand up and fight. I’m going to stand up and fight!”