Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney Blames Himself — And Hochul — For His Defeat
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led a strong performance for House Democrats but lost his own seat. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, House Democrats’ campaign chair, apologized to supporters on Thursday afternoon for losing his own reelection race — but also said that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s sluggish showing hurt him and other Democrats down the ballot.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver a win for you on Tuesday,” Maloney, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on a recording of an emotional conference call obtained exclusively by HuffPost. “That’s my fault, and it’s despite the fact that I’ve got an amazing team of just dedicated, wonderful people who have made me so much better than I would have been all by myself.”
Addressing the group of donors, Democratic activists and labor union officials, Maloney noted that House Democrats outperformed expectations overall and were on track to hold Republicans to a very narrow majority. Maloney lost to Republican challenger and New York Assemblymember Mike Lawler by less than a percentage point.
Describing his disappointment, Maloney said he “couldn’t tell you what it means” to him that his seat was not among those the party won. “I’m also clear that New York was an outlier. And I’m sure I bear some measure of responsibility for that, too.”
Twosuper PACs aligned with House Republicans spent more than $10 million attacking Maloney in a seat that Biden carried by 10 percentage points in 2020.
“If the money they threw at us and the fact that I wasn’t as focused on the race as I should have been, because I was focused on [House Democrats’ overall performance], if it translated into saving a bunch of Democrats, and by extension, kind of breathing life back into this notion that there’s enough of us out there who care about our country that we can still win as a national party, well, then it was worth it,” said Maloney, his voice cracking with emotion.
But Maloney also argued that by performing so poorly in the suburbs outside of New York City, Hochul bears some responsibility for the drubbing that House Democrats like him endured.
Hochul won reelection by less than six percentage points in a solidly Democratic state that President Joe Biden won by 23 percentage points in 2020.
“The governor lost Putnam County by 21 points, lost Rockland County by 12 points and got smoked on Long Island,” said Maloney, who was running in a seat that included all of Rockland and Putnam counties. “And even if you’re me, and you got all the advantages of doing this for 10 years and all the support and help we got, you can’t outrun it by 12 points.”
“And if you’re our candidates on Long Island, well, it’s remarkable they did as well as they did in this environment in New York,” he added.
New York was an outlier. And I’m sure I bear some measure of responsibility for that, too.Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.)
Republicans, who needed a net pickup of just five House seats to take the majority, flipped four Democratic-held House seats in New York alone on Tuesday.
In addition to Maloney, who lost his bid in New York’s newly drawn 17th Congressional District, Josh Riley lost his bid in New York’s 19th, Robert Zimmerman lost his bid in New York’s 3rd, and Laura Gillen lost her bid in New York’s 4th.
Maloney and other Democrats who agree with him believe that New Yorkers who showed up to vote for Hochul’s Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, very likely added to the total number of votes for Republican House candidates in New York’s lower Hudson Valley and on Long Island.
Maloney indeed outperformed Hochul in Rockland and Putnam counties, losing by 17 points in Putnam, and less than 10 points in Rockland. It is possible that some voters who voted straight Republican would have stayed home if Zeldin had not run so competitively against Hochul, or that others might have been more open to voting for Maloney if they felt better about Hochul, the state’s most powerful Democrat.
Since Tuesday night, Democrats have been struggling to make sense of the disappointing results in New York, which also included losses in both houses of the state legislature.
Some critics have raised the issue of New York’s redistricting fiasco. In April, the state’s highest court conclusively rejected Democratic legislators’ original maps of new congressional boundaries, which they had gerrymandered to the party’s advantage, on the grounds that they violated the state constitution’s ban on partisan gerrymandering. The move forced a nonpartisan redrawing that delayed primary elections by two months and deprived the party of an advantage that Republicans exploited in states like Florida, Ohio and Tennessee.
If the nonpartisan maps were a key obstacle for Democrats, there are many potential culprits responsible for their implementation. Some Democrats blame former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for backing an amendment to the state constitution in 2014 barring partisan gerrymandering that had buy-in from Republicans in the state legislature. He also appointed the judges on the appeals court that threw out New York Democrats’ gerrymandered maps and ordered them to be drawn by a special master without giving state legislature Democrats a chance to redraw them.
Maloney suggested on Thursday that Hochul bears some share of the blame for not appealing the court decision striking down New York Democrats’ map to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Had Hochul petitioned the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s ruling, he predicted, “We would have kept the maps, even if they were flawed, for this cycle.”
“But bear in mind, the performance of the governor in the suburban districts around New York City … not the maps, is what cost us the seats,” he added. “We could have played through the map, as enacted, if the governor had not lost by 10 to 20 points in the suburban counties. That’s brutal.”
A spokesperson for Hochul’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Maloney’s comments.
Hochul has refused to accede to calls for her to fire New York State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs following Tuesday’s results.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.