NEW YORK, NY — Democrats living on the east side of Manhattan as well as parts of north Brooklyn and western Queens will head to the polls on June 23 to cast their votes in a contested primary for New York's 12th Congressional District.
Longtime incumbent Carolyn Maloney will face off against challengers Suraj Patel, Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison. Maloney has served in the House of Representatives since being elected to what was then New York's 15th Congresional District in 1992. Unlike Maloney, most of her challengers are outside of New York City's political establishment, and are running to the left of the incumbent on a number of issues.
The primary election is open to registered Democratic voters. All New York voters may request a mail-in ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ballots must be postmarked by the date of the election for the vote to count.
For those who want to head to the polls, click here to find your poll site. Early voting is available from June 13 to June 21.
Patch reached out to all candidates in the primary election to create these profiles. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Age as of Election Day (Nov. 3)
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
University of West Virginia - BA, International Studies and German;
University of Pittsburgh - Master of Public Administration, Urban Development.
As a data analyst and project manager who has worked at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and in the financial sector, I have supported the development of affordable housing and demanded accountability from our nation’s most powerful financial institutions. If elected, I aim to put my political and professional experience to work: to build a more equitable future for our district and to ensure every individual I represent has the fair and just representation they deserve.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
Why are you seeking elective office?
District 12 is one of the bluest in the nation, and is represented by Democrats in the state and federal government. That means our district has the potential to serve as a model for progressive change and enact legislation that red and purple districts cannot. I am running for Congress because my friends and neighbors deserve housing as a human right, livable wages, education as a human right, and universal healthcare. They deserve to be protected from the lasting effects of climate change. They deserve to vote for the candidate who best represents their values versus corporate interests. Rep. Carolyn Maloney has had fourteen chances to represent her district. I’m running for U.S. Congress to offer every individual in my district the fair and equitable representation that we all deserve.
The single most pressing issue facing our nation/state/community is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The presence of big money in politics prevents common sense solutions to generational problems like the climate disaster, the homelessness crisis, our for-profit and morally-bankrupt healthcare system, wealth inequality, endless war, police brutality, and gun violence. There is a reason that politicians like my opponent who are funded by corporate lobbyists and super-PACs have failed time and time again to stand up for their communities on Capitol Hill. The reason being: they are afraid of losing the financial support of their biggest donors—donors who benefit from the status quo. We need to end Citizens United, but that is not enough; we need to fight publicly funded elections and I will not stop fighting until the direction of our politics is determined by working people and not powerful corporations.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am the only viable progressive candidate in this race. My campaign has the most endorsements of any other primary challenger. Our supporters include national organizations like Brand New Congress, Women For Justice, as well as local coalitions like Long Island Activists and New York Progressive Action Network. We have recruited the most volunteers (600+) in the race. We have the largest social media following and the most small-dollar donations in the race and the highest first contact support rate (41%) according to our phone-banking data.
It’s worth mentioning that NY-12 is a district awash in the money that corrupts our national politics. In addition to the $1.7 million in corporate and large donor money that incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney has already raised, our other challenger, Suraj Patel, has raised over half a million dollars, 97% of which is from wealthy donors giving over $200. Progressive activists agree that we need to get money out of politics. Our campaign is doing just that while committing to a bold agenda in support of a Green New Deal, a Federal Homes Guarantee, and Single Payer Medicare for All.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
Home to Billionaire Row and thousands of people who do not have a home, the biggest companies in the world and tens of thousands of people living paycheck to paycheck, NY-12 is rated the third most economically divided congressional district in the United States. It’s also the perfect example of what happens when elected officials like Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who should be serving the public interest, cede to the demands of special interests. Americans count on deep blue districts like ours to elect the progressive leaders of tomorrow. Carolyn Maloney is no progressive leader. In her twenty-seven years on Capitol Hill, she has voted to send our troops to Iraq, deregulate Wall Street and expand mass incarceration. She supported the Amazon Deal, which would have cost the State of New York $3.4 billion. She has attended anti-vaxx rallies with Jenny McCarthy and RFK. She has accepted six figures in campaign donations from billionaires like Donald Trump and corporations like Blackstone Capital and JP Morgan Chase. NY-12 deserves a federal representative who fights for working class interests. After twenty-seven years on Capitol Hill, Rep. Carolyn Maloney has shown us she is not willing to fight for us. Unless we start electing representatives who are willing to fight for what we all believe in, nothing will change.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
To end homelessness and gentrification, we need to increase access to affordable housing. The Homes Guarantee, which supports the construction of 12 million public housing units nationwide, would do just that while expanding the rights of tenants, and reversing decades of discriminatory housing policy. We also need to think about our existing housing stock. The Green New Deal for Public Housing, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, will invest $180 billion over ten years to install energy retrofits in 1.2 million federally administered homes and in so doing, ensure a just transition to renewable energy.
I support a Green New Deal to improve upon or replace aging public infrastructure to support a carbon-neutral economy. That includes the transformation of public transportation in our district; the development of a more sustainable grid and the establishment of a Federal Jobs Guarantee to give working class people well-paid jobs erecting wind-mills, installing solar panels, and helping our nation transition to a greener economy.
I am a champion for Single-Payer Medicare for All because it takes the profit out of public health. I also support vision, dental, hearing, and mental healthcare as well all prescription drugs.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I’m a community organizer with deep ties to my community. I helped organize the Women’s March on New York. I chair the Justice Committee at the Middle Collegiate Church. I have also raised thousands of dollars for progressive nonprofits through my standup comedy. Through my activism, I have channeled anger and discontent into creative civic action.
Like so many others in NY-12, I also worked in the financial services industry, where I became a Democratic Socialist, having witnessed firsthand the same unchecked greed—encouraged in part by Rep. Maloney, who helped to dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act— that I am running for U.S. Congress to regulate.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I keep hearing that Representative Maloney is “not that bad”—but for the district that we call home, “not that bad” is not good enough. “Not that bad” is what led us to where we are today. “Not that bad” means voting for the 1994 Crime Bill; for failing and failing to cosponsor bills to demilitarize police. “Not that bad” means people with wheelchairs cannot use our subway system. “Not that bad” means people living from SSI Disability survive on a few hundred dollars per month. “Not that bad” means children are separated from their families and put into cages. “Not that bad” means black people are targeted and murdered by police. “Not that bad” means 23,000 people in our district have no health insurance. “Not that bad” means thousands of people in NY-12 have no home, with many more losing their homes since the crisis. “Not that bad” means much of NY-12 was excluded from COVID-19 relief. You deserve better than “Not that bad”. I have a vision for ALL of us.