Home>Campaigns>A New Jerseyan’s guide to New York’s congressional primaries

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York). (Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock).

A New Jerseyan’s guide to New York’s congressional primaries

Nadler and Maloney go head-to-head, Lower Manhattan hosts a clown car, and more

By Joey Fox, August 23 2022 1:54 pm

The Hudson River can feel truly vast sometimes, but New York and New Jersey are connected at the hip, and what happens in New York politics can have a huge impact on its better half.

New York will hold primaries for the U.S. House and State Senate today, both held under new maps drawn by a nonpartisan special master; statewide and Assembly primaries happened in June. The number of competitive congressional contests is astonishing: eight open seats, at least three serious challenges to incumbents, and two concurrent special elections.

No matter who wins, the congressional delegation from New Jersey’s closest neighbor will look radically different come 2023. Here’s a look at the most important contests – and how, if at all, Jersey figures into them.


The 12th district: Jerry Nadler vs. Carolyn Maloney vs. Suraj Patel

For as long as anyone alive today can remember, the Upper West Side and Upper East Side of Manhattan have each had their own congressional district. The two neighborhoods, both containing hundreds of thousands of the city’s wealthiest residents, have long had their own distinct cultures and their own designated representatives: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) for the Upper West Side, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) for the Upper East Side.

The problem is, in recent decades, New York’s steady loss of congressional seats has made it harder and harder to justify giving each neighborhood its own district. On the congressional map in place since 2012, both Nadler and Maloney represent large swaths of Brooklyn and Queens as well as their Manhattan bases.

The state’s new map, drawn by a special master this year after the original Democratic gerrymander was thrown out, finally does away with that increasingly untenable balancing act. Nadler’s 10th district and Maloney’s 12th were combined into one Manhattan district, setting up a battle of giants.

Nadler and Maloney have each served in Congress since the early 1990’s, and they’ve both risen to chair incredibly important House committees, Judiciary for Nadler and Oversight for Maloney – meaning that the House Democratic caucus is going to lose a key leader no matter what happens. Nadler is also the only remaining Jewish House member from New York, while Maloney is one of the longest-serving women in the House.

Nadler has led in every recent poll of the contest, and he also has the endorsement of the New York Times, which probably holds more sway in the 12th district than anywhere else in the country. Another candidate, Suraj Patel, is also running after losing to Maloney in 2018 and 2020, but he’s likely to come in third.

No New Jersey representatives happen to serve on the Judiciary or Oversight Committees, but if Maloney loses, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) would move up a notch in seniority on the House Financial Services Committee.

Contributors from New Jersey have given approximately $240,000 to the three main candidates, around half of which, or $118,000, went to Maloney. Curiously, more Jersey money went to Patel, who raised $72,000 from the Garden State, than Nadler, who raised $49,500.

The 10th district: Dan Goldman vs. Yuh-Line Niou vs. Carlina Rivera vs. Mondaire Jones vs. Elizabeth Holtzman vs. Jo Anne Simon

Because of the 12th district showdown, the Brooklyn- and Lower Manhattan-based 10th district – which was so significantly redrawn that it’s essentially a new district – is open, and has a sprawling group of candidates running to represent it.

There’s Dan Goldman, the former impeachment counsel to House Democrats. There’s Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, the legislator from former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s seat. There’s City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, two established politicians from Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively. There’s Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-White Plains), an incumbent congressman – from Westchester County. And there’s former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-Brooklyn), who left Congress in 1981.

(There was also, for a couple months, former Mayor Bill de Blasio, but he dropped out after struggling to gain traction.)

Goldman, a Levi Strauss heir who has given his campaign millions of dollars, has two critical endorsements, one from the New York Times and another, curiously, from former President Donald Trump. Trump, who also endorsed Maloney in the 12th district, appears to be trying to sink his least favorite candidates by tying them to himself.

Despite Trump’s meddling, Goldman appears to be the slight favorite. His closest competitors according to available polls are Niou, a favorite among progressives, and Rivera, who has a huge chunk of the city’s politicians on her side.

Two New Jersey politicians have waded into the contest: U.S. Senator Cory Booker endorsed Jones, while former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley is backing Holtzman, with whom he briefly overlapped in Congress 40 years ago.

New Jerseyans have collectively donated around $250,000 to various candidates in the race, with a plurality – around $92,000 – going to Jones, the race’s overall fundraising leader.

The 11th district: Max Rose vs. Brittany Ramos DeBarros

Former Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island) is running for a rematch against Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), but first, the former Blue Dog Caucus member has to get through a primary against Brittany Ramos DeBarros.

On the original Democratic-drawn map’s version of the 11th district, Staten Island was combined with deep-blue Park Slope, but that change was undone by the special master’s map. It’s now a district that Trump won by seven points, probably too heavy a lift for the moderate Rose – and almost definitely out of reach for DeBarros, a staunch progressive.

The lone Republican representing any part of New York City, Malliotakis has aligned with many Jersey politicians, including Democrats like Gottheimer, in her hatred of congestion pricing, which would heavily impact her own car-commuting constituents as well as those from North Jersey.

The rest of the state

The 3rd district: Josh Lafazan vs. Robert Zimmerman vs. Jon Kaiman vs. Melanie D’Arrigo

North Jersey’s SALT-focused representatives are losing a key ally this year, with 3rd district Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) leaving his seat to wage an unsuccessful campaign for governor. Any representative from the wealthy North Shore of Long Island, though, is bound to be a champion for blue state tax relief.

The Democratic primary seems to have four main candidates: Nassau County legislator Josh Lafazan, DNC member Robert Zimmerman, former North Hempstead town supervisor Jon Kaiman, and 2020 candidate Melanie D’Arrigo. D’Arrigo is by far the furthest left of the four and Lafazan the most moderate, with Zimmerman and Kaiman in the middle.

The lone Republican running for the seat is 2020 nominee George Santos, and in a year that may be favorable to Republicans, most prognosticators consider the light-blue seat a tossup.

The 17th district: Sean Patrick Maloney vs. Alessandra Biaggi

In a complex game of musical chairs that ended up banishing Mondaire Jones to lower Manhattan, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) is running for re-election but has to first get past State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi.

Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, chose to run in the new 17th district, where he lives, even though he currently represents most of the less Democratic 18th district. Maloney’s DCCC has also drawn fire for meddling in Republican congressional primaries to boost far-right candidates, most notably in Michigan’s 3rd district, where John Gibbs defeated moderate Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Michigan) with the help of deceptive ads from the DCCC.

Those weaknesses left an opening for Biaggi, who lives well outside the boundaries of the district, but polling has shown Maloney with a comfortable lead. If Maloney were to lose, it’s not clear what would happen to the DCCC and its fundraising; the fallout could have an impact on New Jersey’s competitive congressional races, where several Democratic incumbents are trying to fight off strong challengers.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary in the 17th district will likely face Assemblyman Mike Lawler, the business partner of New Jersey-based political strategist Chris Russell.

The 19th district special election: Pat Ryan (D) vs. Marc Molinaro (R)

In what is possibly the most important special election of the 2021-2022 cycle, Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro are fighting to serve out the last few months of now-Lieutenant Gov. Antonio Delgado’s term. It’s one of the only special House elections of the last two years to take place in truly competitive territory; most other elections have taken place in red- or blue-leaning districts.

If Ryan wins the Biden +2 seat, it’s an indication that Democrats are not going to give up their congressional majorities without a fight; if Molinaro wins, as polling indicates is more likely, it will likely be interpreted as a precursor to a strong Republican year.

Democrats in the district are running hard on the issue of abortion while Republicans are focusing on inflation, strategies that are being replicated in the New Jersey contest between Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield); the result in New York will serve as a sign of which issue is more salient to voters.

Both Ryan and Molinaro are running for a full term in November, but thanks to redistricting, they’re doing so in different districts: Molinaro in the 19th district, Ryan in the more Democratic 18th.

Other contests

In the eastern Long Island-based 1st district, currently held by Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), three Republicans – Michelle Bond, Nick LaLota, and Anthony Figliola – are campaigning for the nomination in the light-red seat.

The Nassau County-based 4th district is also open thanks to the retirement of Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), and former Hempstead town supervisor Laura Gillen seems to be the favorite over Malverne mayor Keith Corbett and Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages in the Democratic primary to succeed her.

Following his defeat of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) in 2020, progressive 16th district Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-Yonkers) faces two challengers from the center, Westchester County Legislators Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker.

Former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, a Republican with a habit of saying inflammatory things, is gunning for a comeback in the open 23rd district, but he first has to defeat state Republican Party chairman Nick Langworthy.

And finally, the current 23rd district vacated by former Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) will host a special election that isn’t expected to be especially close. Republican Joe Sempolinski is near-certain to beat Democrat Max Della Pia, but since the seat was significantly altered by redistricting, he isn’t running anywhere in November and will only serve for a few months.

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