No matter who wins the Democratic primary for Manhattan’s 12th Congressional District, New York will lose at least one — or possibly two — senior members of its congressional delegation.
The newly drawn district unites the East and West Sides north of 14th Street for the first time in more than 50 years, and leaves out portions of Brooklyn and Queens that were part of the district for a generation.
Since 1992, Rep. Jerrold Nadler has represented Manhattan’s West Side while Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who took office in 1993, has represented the East Side. Both lead prominent House committees: Nadler, 75, chairs the Judiciary Committee while Maloney, 76, chairs the Oversight Committee. Both members are fixtures in their respective political universes and have often endorsed each other in their re-election bids. That is, until portions of their existing districts merged into one new district, with neither willing to run elsewhere.
But these incumbents are not the only candidates making a case that they are best positioned to represent Manhattanites. Attorney Suraj Patel, 38, who has twice challenged Maloney, is running for a third time. He has argued that voters deserve someone with new ideas and fresh energy to lead the district at a time when the city and nation face a series of existential threats. Patel, who previously worked on the 2008 presidential campaign for Barack Obama, has tried to take the decades of experience both Nadler and Maloney bring to the job and flip it on its head, arguing they had their chance to make the changes voters needed and failed.
The three candidates will face off in a live, 90-minute debate co-sponsored by WNYC and Spectrum/NY1 News on Tuesday starting at 7 p.m.
Here’s what you need to know about the candidates and how to watch the debate.
How to watch or listen to the debate
The debate will air on WNYC 93.9 FM, 820 AM and will stream live on wnyc.org from 7-8:30 p.m. You can also watch the debate on Spectrum/NY1 or on their website, ny1.com. There will be no paywall for the debate.
Meet the candidates
Carolyn Maloney was elected to Congress in 1992 after serving for a decade in the New York City Council. At the time, she was described as the “upset winner,” defeating incumbent Bill Green, a Republican. Maloney has been an outspoken advocate for health care, including abortion access, Medicare coverage for mammograms, and funding for victims of the September 11th attacks.
She has faced criticism in the past for stunts including wearing a burqa on the House floor in 2001 shortly after the September 11th attacks as a way to warn about the looming threat to civil rights faced by women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Her past support of vaccine skeptics has also come under fire in this election. As chair of the House Oversight Committee, she recently called gun manufacturers to testify before Congress about the responsibility they bear when it comes to several recent mass shootings. Ahead of the hearing, the committee released a report that found five of the top gun companies have raked in more than $1 billion in profits from the sale of assault-style weapons over the last decade.
Maloney has a little more than $3.7 million in her campaign war chest, including a $900,000 loan she gave herself, according to campaign filings. She currently has more than $2 million cash on hand.
Jerrold Nadler, known as “Jerry,” began his career in public office in 1976 when he was elected to the New York State Assembly. In 1992, Nadler won a special election to fill a vacancy when the incumbent Rep. Ted Weiss died suddenly ahead of the election.
Nadler has been a staunch proponent for civil rights and voting rights and notched the early support of the left-leaning Working Families Party in this race. He is currently the only Jewish member of New York’s congressional delegation. While his campaign has sought to remind voters of that fact, Maloney has criticized Nadler for using his identity to divide voters. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Nadler played a key role in both of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings.
Nadler has $1.4 million for his campaign, with $1.2 million in unspent cash on hand, filings show.
Suraj Patel is mounting his third bid for Congress challenging Maloney. The 38-year-old attorney worked on the Obama campaign and teaches business ethics at NYU. His platform includes a series of “technocratic” policies that rely on federal legislation and regulation to address problems like reining in inflation to protecting abortion access, according to the New York Times.
Patel argues the district needs a change in leadership, despite sharing similar positions with the incumbents on many key issues. Nadler and Maloney have described his attacks on them as ageist. Patel came within roughly 3,000 votes of ousting Maloney in 2020, a race that was decided by absentee ballots.
Patel has $1.1 million in his campaign account, of which he has a little more than $562,000 in cash on hand, according to filings.
Ashmi Sheth, who will be on the ballot but not appearing in the debate, is a first-time candidate who describes herself on Facebook as the “daughter of Indian immigrants [who has] witnessed firsthand the grit it takes to make it.” Sheth worked at the Federal Reserve regulating the banking industry, according to her official campaign website.
A progressive Democrat, Sheth supports policies including universal health care, banning Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Green New Deal. While she raised more than $240,000, the latest Federal Election Commission filing shows she has less than $500 in cash on hand.