It has been very exciting/interesting to be in Northwest Queens these past few months as young, insurgent challengers for congress have taken on institution-incumbents of the NYC delegation in the Democratic primaries. Here in New York District 12, Carolyn Maloney kept her seat safe from Suraj Patel, whom Corner interviewed in April. But the nation will be thinking about the race in NY-14, which includes Ditmars, Woodside, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Corona, College Point, Throgs Neck, Parkchester, Morris Park and City Island – where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Joe Crowley. (Below: map of NY-12, left, and NY-14, right.)
The other day I interviewed Suraj Patel, who is running against incumbent Representative Carolyn Maloney in the Midterm Democratic primary election for Congress on June 26. When I walked into his campaign headquarters at 64 Cooper Square, a converted East Village bar flush with young people on laptops, he was sitting by the door talking to a young woman who seemed to want to help his campaign. His website has a ‘Meet Suraj‘ feature allowing anyone to book 20 minutes with him. That’s what I did.
Patel, 34, is less than half the age of the incumbent (she’s 72) and has been described as part of a movement of Millennial challengers or “progressive insurgents” inspired by the last national election, to push out old guard Democrats. In New York, this includes Rep. Ed Crowley’s Bronx/Queens challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Yvette Clarke’s Brooklyn challenger Adem Bunkeddeko.
Patel, an East Village resident, grew up in Indiana and moved to the city 12 years ago for law school, his website says. He’s president of his family’s hotel business and teaches business ethics at NYU. His LinkedIn includes Barack Obama and the White House’s advance teams between 2008 and 2016, the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and special assistant to the chief of staff of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2012-2013. In this campaign, he has raised more than $1 million in contributions, close to Maloney’s $1.3 million and has spent at least $460,000. He lost the endorsement vote of the Village Independent Democrats to Maloney 20 to 17.
I let his staffer know a few hours in advance that I write a neighborhood blog and asked to be able to record audio. I’m not sure if Patel was expecting a journalist but I explained when the session started. The first few minutes of audio didn’t record well so I tried to edit it into shape. After that it’s smooth sailing. There’s also a nearly full transcript below.
Carolyn Maloney campaigners have been busy with clipboards at the Queensbridge F-train station to get signatures ensuring she’ll be on the June primary election ballot, I’ve noticed. I haven’t spotted challenger Suraj Patel campaigners in the Ravenswood-Queensbridge area by eye yet – he has visited the Ravenswood Houses and the area (as evidenced in this campaign video around the 3:35 mark) – but certain things are of note for the 34 year-old opponent.
Patel has again topped 25-year incumbent Maloney in campaign contributions, the Washington Post reported yesterday, collecting more than $525,000, Maloney less than $500,000, in the second fundraising quarter, putting Patel at close to $1.1 million. After Patel out-raised Maloney in the first quarter four to one, Maloney said, “it’s mainly from Indiana, where he’s from… mainly a huge amount of the name Patel, which is his name.” Patel later told BuzzFeed News, “I guess I didn’t realize Rep. Maloney hired Steve Bannon as her campaign strategist.” WaPo called this “the best coverage of [Patel’s] campaign.” A few weeks earlier, as BuzzFeed had noted, Politico reported that “four members of [Patel’s] immediate family, which owns SUN Hospitality, donated, as did 10 other relatives, according to his campaign.”
Patel was asked again about Maloney’s attack on a podcast posted yesterday on the site, Millennial Politics:
“I mean, how many Patels do you guys know? …I think there are about 250,000 Patels in this country alone… I find it to be offensive and race-bating to say that this guy’s last name is Patel and all these other Patels are donating to him.”
He also said of the incumbent:
“Representative Maloney is quote on quote good enough. I guess she takes the right votes and loses them time and time again… She should be leading from a place like this that’s wholly progressive… On top of that she isn’t as progressive as this district deserves.”
Patel is part of a movement of Democratic challengers described as running on Bernie Sanders-style politics, an effort to push out old-guard Dems for a Millennial new guard, along with Queens/Bronx candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who only once replied to me on Twitter. Both candidates are for eliminating ICE.
Patel, who has worked for Barack Obama campaigns, has highlighted such Maloney stances as her vote for authorizing the Iraq War. In 2002, 81 Democratic house members voted for the war, 126 house Democrats voted no. In 2005 Maloney joined the Out-of-Iraq caucus. Patel has also made note of Maloney’s prominent place in the anti-vaccination movement. Maloney has only recently announced she doesn’t believe vaccinations cause autism.
The Patel campaign is headquarted at 64 Cooper Square, the former location of an activist bar, as Racked explained:
“Until late September, 64 Cooper Square in Manhattan was home to the activist bar Coup, which sprung up in the wake of President Trump’s election and, while it was open, donated all of its proceeds to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Coup’s wood bar, mirrored liquor shelves, and blue upholstered booths are still there, but the space is now the campaign headquarters of Suraj Patel…”
The district includes Astoria below Ditmars, Long Island City, Greenpoint, upper Williamsburg, part of the Lower East Side, the East Village and much of the East Side of Manhattan up to around East 96th Street. I have emailed the Patel campaign to see how much campaigning it has done in the Ravenswood/Queensbridge area and if any of its campaigners are from Western Queens. I haven’t heard back yet.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney has a Democratic midterm primary challenger who just got caught saying apparently suggestive comments on social media about McKayla Maroney, a champion Olympic gymnast who was underage at the time in 2012. I know, Maroney, Maloney? TBH, I read his Facebook post a few times and don’t get it. Is that Indiana humor? The timing is awkward I guess because Maroney has recently spoken out about being sexually abused as a teen. Politico reported a month ago that the challenger, Suraj Patel, a 34 year-old former Obama campaign staffer (or something, here’s his LinkedIn) who lives in the East Village, had a war chest comparable to Maloney’s. Politico notes, “Patel’s campaign strategists point out the district has been redrawn since 2010 to include the younger, hipper Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.” Some case for descriptive representation. The area was actually the 14th district until 2013 when it became the 12th. It stretched a bit to includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
A few notes:
- Maloney stood with Jon Stewart to protect healthcare for 9/11 first responders.
- Late Saturday night an off-duty corrections cop fired at someone he said was firing at a group of people around 28th Ave and Steinway. Guy got away though, NYDN says.
- In the same place 12 hours later, two men fired at an off-duty corrections cop, who fired back, Pix 11 says.
- Also on Sunday, a dude on a bike robbed an old lady on 46th Street in Astoria.
- Two LIC companies, an auto shop and a towing company, were allegedly complicit in a citywide towing scheme brought under an indictment by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance.
- State Rep. Aravella Simotas is pushing for expanded sexual assault legislation.