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A guide to New York’s primary battles

Wake Up To Politics: New York primary guide
A guide to New York’s primary battles

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, August 23, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 77 days away. Election Day 2024 is 805 days away.

A guide to New York’s primary battles

For the most part, the fiercest primary elections of the 2022 cycle have all taken place among Republicans. While the GOP has seen a slew of contested primaries — sometimes producing nominees the party’s leadership seems none too pleased about — Democrats have mainly fallen behind consensus candidates, quietly preparing for the general election while watching Republicans fight it out.

That pattern will come to an end today, as several high-profile, bitterly contested clashes play out among New York Democrats.

What led to all the Democratic infighting in the Empire State? Redistricting. Democrats had initially viewed New York as a bulwark against nationwide GOP gains in November, due to a heavily gerrymandered map that had been poised to net Democrats three House seats.

But that map, drawn by Democratic legislators, was soon rejected by the state’s top court as unconstitutional. In its place, an out-of-state “special master” was appointed to draw a new map. While the initial lines were a gift to Democrats, his replacement threw the party into chaos, setting up today’s primary battles by drawing several incumbent Democrats into the same districts.

Here are the three top New York primaries to watch:

— Chairman vs. Chairwoman: One of the longtime conventions upended by the court-appointed mapmaker was the tradition of drawing two separate congressional districts for New York City’s Upper West and Upper East Sides. In this year’s map, the two Manhattan neighborhoods were drawn together, creating a 12th District primary contest between Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler (from the West Side) and Carolyn Maloney (from the East Side).

Nadler, 75, and Maloney, 76, have served together for decades: he entered Congress in 1992 and she joined a few months later in 1993. They are both senior House Democratic leaders: he chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee, she wields the sought-after Oversight Committee gavel.

With similar biographies, questions of identity have played a key role in the race, with Maloney positioning herself as a warrior for women’s rights and Nadler frequently reminding voters that, without him, New York will have no Jewish members of its House delegation next year. Age has also entered into the mix, with 38-year-old attorney Suraj Patel calling for new leadership in his campaign against both veteran lawmakers.

Nadler appears to be in the driver’s seat heading into Primary Day, with a recent poll showing him with 43% of the vote to Maloney’s 24% and Patel’s 14%. Nadler has also nabbed endorsements from the New York Times editorial board and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Rep. Jerry Nadler faces a longtime colleague in a primary today. (Ralph Alswang)

— The free-for-all: Meanwhile, in Nadler’s old 10th District (which now includes Lower Manhattan and most of Brooklyn), a wide-open field of 12 candidates is battling it out for the Democratic nod.

The race features a congressman from the Hudson Valley who moved districts to avoid going up against another incumbent (Mondaire Jones), a wealthy Levi Strauss heir who served as lead Democratic counsel during the first Trump impeachment trial (Dan Goldman), a trail-blazing former congresswoman who last served in the House in 1981 (Elizabeth Holtzman), and two progressive women of color currently serving in the city council (Carlina Rivera) and state legislature (Yuh-Line Niou).

As the New York Times put it, the primary is a “contest not so much of ideas” as of “brute force, blunt ambition, and identity politics.” According to the most recent poll, Jones appears to be winning that contest, with the Emerson College survey showing him taking 22% of the vote, followed by Niou at 17% and Jones at 13%.

— Progressive vs. establishment: Finally, the 17th District primary that Jones moved to avoid. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), angered progressives when he bigfooted Jones by announcing that he would run in the 17th, which includes his home but had more portions of Jones’ old district than his own.

In response, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi is waging a challenge from Maloney’s left, seeking to unseat the powerful Democratic incumbent. Maloney (who is not related to Carolyn) has been endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while Biaggi boasts support from top progressive groups and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (at podium) has angered progressives. (New York State)

Something else to keep an eye on in New York: A special election in the 19th District which is being regarded by both sides as a bellwether for November. The district, which was represented by Democrat Antonio Delgado until he resigned to become lieutenant governor, is a true swing district: it went for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, then for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, then for Donald Trump in 2016, and finally for Joe Biden by a slim 50%-48% margin in 2020.

Both standard-bearers in today’s special election are running on what their parties view as their best messaging this year: Democrat Pat Ryan has focused on abortion, while Republican Marc Molinaro has battered Biden on inflation. The last special election before November, it will provide a key test of both of those messages and of voter enthusiasm heading into the general election.

Meanwhile, in Florida: There’s another hotly contested Democratic primary. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who switched parties, and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are running against each other for the right to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in November.

DeSantis is heavily favored in the general election, but with his star on the rise in the GOP, the Florida gubernatorial race will receive national attention. Whoever is nominated today to face him will give Democrats their first crack at testing messaging out against DeSantis, ahead of a possible White House contest down the line. Crist has led most public polls of the primary.

Update: The DOJ’s Trump investigations

There has been an array of developments in the Justice Department investigation into classified documents kept by former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago:

>> Trump’s lawyers filed a motion on Monday seeking to bar the federal government from further reviewing the materials seized during the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago until an independent “special master” is appointed to filter out the documents supposedly covered by executive privilege.

  • However, as many legal experts pointed out, the filing could backfire: any materials covered by executive privilege would be official documents that should not have been in Trump’s possession after he left office, undermining his own defense.

>> More details are emerging about the documents Trump took with him to his private club after his presidency. Per the New York Times, the government has recovered more than 300 documents marked as classified from Trump since January 2021, including the materials seized during the raid.

A conservative news website also reported Monday on a May letter from the National Archives, which reveals that some of the documents recovered from Trump in January of this year included “special access program materials,” some of the most sensitive and classified documents in the government.

>> The government is demanding more surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, according to the Times. Trump’s club had already turned over security tapes from April to June; now the DOJ is reportedly seeking footage from June to the August 8 raid, to gain a better understanding of who entered storage areas where the documents were kept and whether they were moved.

It’s not the only Justice Department investigation into Trump that is seeking new materials: per CNN, the DOJ has issued a new subpoena for documents from the National Archives as part of its grand jury investigation into January 6.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club has become the center of an investigation into his handling of classified documents. (Flickr)

Fauci announces December departure

Dr. Anthony Fauci will step down in December as the nation’s top infectious disease expert after more than 50 years of government service, he announced on Monday.

Fauci has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, guiding the U.S. through crises from HIV/AIDS to Ebola. But he gained his highest level of prominence — and controversy — during the last two years, as he became the public face of the U.S. response to Covid-19.

In the statement announcing his departure, Fauci stressed that he is “not retiring” but moving on to “the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field.” He said that he plans for his future work to include efforts to “inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders.”

Republican lawmakers, who have frequently clashed with Fauci over his support for Covid mitigation measures, indicated Monday that their plans to investigate the scientist if they retake Congress in January would continue even after his departure.

Dr. Anthony Fauci will leave the government after 50 years of service. (White House)

Today’s political daybook

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.

Polls close at 7 p.m. in Florida and at 9 p.m. in New York.

President Joe Biden is on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He has nothing on his public schedule.

Vice President Kamala Harris is on vacation in Kauai, Hawaii. She has nothing on her public schedule.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre does not have a press briefing scheduled.

The Senate is on recess until September 6. The chamber will briefly convene for a pro forma session (10:30 am), a quick meeting held only to satisfy the constitutional obligation of meeting every three days. No business will be conducted.

The House is on recess until September 13. The chamber will also hold a brief pro forma session (10 am).

The Supreme Court is on recess until October 3.

Before I go...

Here’s a headline to make you smile: “Dogs’ eyes well up with tears of joy when reunited with their owners”

Read more from CNN on new research from a team of Japanese scientists, who found that dogs — like humans — sometimes shed tears to express positive emotions, and often do so after owners come home.

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If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe