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Carolyn Maloney vs Rana Abdelhamid: A Tale of Three Boroughs, Redistricting Scenarios, and Endorsement Predictions
Justice Democrats are back in NYC, and this time they are taking on Carolyn Maloney. Will other leftist allies join them?
“Make no mistake about it. This challenge is not about progressive causes. This challenge is about one thing: power. Maloney has it and the DSA wants it. Maloney can proudly stand on her record. Abdelhamid may challenge Maloney, but I challenge Abdelhamid to be honest with the voters she is seeking the support of. I’ve read the DSA platform. Everyone should. Tell the voters where you and the DSA stand on "defunding the police;” ending capitalism in America, unilaterally disarming the nuclear deterrent of the U.S. military, and seizing private businesses that have to lay off workers even when their survival requires it. Simply, the DSA wants America to replace the capitalist system with the historically proven failure of socialism.
The DSA and Justice Democrats have a long history of cherry-picking the districts they compete in, the opponents they believe they can beat and the issues that they choose to talk about. Well, with Carolyn Maloney, this time, they have picked the wrong opponent. It’s about time we let the voters know what the DSA really stands for – and if they were truly FOR the progressive values of the overwhelming majority of mainstream Democrats – they would be supporting Maloney."
Jay Jacobs, Chair of the New York State Democratic Committee, a longstanding ally of Andrew Cuomo, released this unhinged statement upon Rana Abdelhamid’s announcement that she was launching a primary challenge against incumbent representative Carolyn Maloney of New York’s 12th congressional district.
Abdelhamid, who recently turned 28 years old, is a native of the “Little Cairo” section of Astoria, Queens, and the daughter of working class Egyptian immigrants.
After a stranger tried to tear off her hijab when she was a teenager, Abdelhamid founded Malika, a group meant to help women heal from trauma, combining skills for self-defense and de-escalation with a community setting to help women recover from violence. She and her family moved 6 times before she turned 9, as they were the victims of gentrification, rising rents and economic displacement. Abdelhamid credits her embrace of socialist policies, like housing as a human right and defunding the police, as a product of those lived experiences.
Abdelhamid is backed by Justice Democrats, an organization that requires their candidates to refuse financial contributions from corporations and billionaires while championing a policy agenda blending of Democratic Socialism and New Deal style economics. She is also a DSA member, an organization that has grown remarkably since 2018. Both groups have enjoyed considerable electoral success in New York City, helping propel insurgents Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman to Congress in the last two cycles. To date, Abdelhamid has already banked over $400K, a staggering figure for a non-incumbent this early on. She has already been endorsed by incoming Comptroller Brad Lander and former Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon (who did very well in NY12 neighborhoods in her 2018 campaign). She already appears to have the inside track to more coveted progressive endorsements. Jacobs has reason to be scared.
However, this will be Justice Democrats’ most difficult challenge in New York City yet.
The element of surprise is gone. No incumbent will continue to underestimate insurgents, especially those who raise vast sums of money and are backed by organizations with a track record of pulling off upsets. Their opponent is well seasoned and prepared, and much stronger than both Joe Crowley and Eliot Engel.
Abdelhamid is facing Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the House Oversight Committee vying for her 16th term in office. Maloney has shifted leftward in recent years, as the progressive tide has swept across local and national politics. That being said, she has always been a steady liberal hand in Congress for decades. She has a strong record of introducing legislation, and has consistently been one of the most active members of Congress, putting forth hundreds of bills, resolutions and amendments.
Maloney is best known for her introduction and passage of the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act”, which guaranteed healthcare for all 9/11 first responders (many of whom contracted cancer from the toxins at Ground Zero), the Debbie Smith Act, and the “Credit Card Holders’ Bill of Rights”, which has saved consumers more than $16 billion annually since it was signed into law in 2009, per the CFPB. Locally, she is hailed for helping secure more than $10 billion in federal aid to New York City, including for the two largest transit construction projects in the nation, the Second Avenue Subway and the East Side Access project, both of which run through NY-12. Maloney will make these accomplishments, as well as her seniority and power within Congress, central to her re-election message.
In every respect, this is a heavyweight matchup, an ideological war fought between the establishment and an insurgent, broken down along generational, economic and geographical lines.
To understand this race, we must first examine the district in which it takes place, and how those aforementioned divides permeate throughout it.
A Tale of Three Boroughs
Much of the economic and ideological deviations throughout the district can partially be attributed to the geographical split. NY-12 is quite literally divided... amongst three boroughs: Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
Manhattan's portion, consisting of neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Turtle Bay, Stuyvesant Town, and the East Village, is the largest of the three, accounting for a gargantuan 69% of the vote in the 2020 NY-12 congressional primary. This subsection is predominantly white (~70%) and wealthy (60% of households earn $100K+). In the Mayor’s race, Kathryn Garcia swept much of this Manhattan portion, as she won wealthier older liberals by large margins. Many of these voters, who self-identified as “progressive”, voted for Garcia, despite her more moderate policy positions, prioritizing her competence and management experience. Garcia’s messaging, especially concerning experience and pragmatic progressivism, resembles Maloney. The two enjoy a high degree of overlapping support. Garcia dominated with Maloney’s base on the Upper East Side. Despite three challengers in 2020, Maloney still won 50% of the Manhattan portion of the district, winning her greatest margins North of 45th street. These large margins helped her maintain her lead despite a poor showing from her campaign in Queens and Brooklyn. However, the southern portion of the district, notably the East Village, trended away from Maloney in 2018 and 2020, with her challenger, Suraj Patel winning many of the election districts in the neighborhood, as voters were more eager for an alternative to Maloney. Maya Wiley the only viable quasi-leftist in the Mayor’s race, did well in these precincts as well. Abdelhamid could look to build off this momentum in 2022, with an emerging base of voters who will be receptive to her politics and message.
The Western Queens’ portion of NY12, which includes gentrifying neighborhoods like Astoria and Long Island City, is less economically and racially uniform. In this portion of the district approximately 42% of households make under 60K, while 45% of people living in these neighborhoods are either Hispanic or Asian. These voters are more left-leaning than their Manhattan counterparts as well, with a majority of Western Queens election districts heavily supporting Maya Wiley for Mayor, while down the ballot electing Socialist Tiffany Cabán and Leftist Julie Won to the City Council. However, the Queens section of NY12 only represented 17% of the vote share in the 2020 primary. In that election, Maloney only garnered 32.4% of the vote in Queens, sandwiched between Patel at 43.7% and other challenger Lauren Ashcraft at 18.3%. Maloney was kept afloat by the Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Astoria housing projects - which were the only election districts (sans two others) she won in the borough, a poor showing for an incumbent. Future Mayor Eric Adams, who only received 13% of the vote in NY12, did even better with residents of public housing throughout the district than Maloney did.
Lastly, the smallest portion of the district is North Brooklyn, which held a vote share of 14% in the 2020 primary election. The gentrifying neighborhoods of Greenpoint and North Williamsburg have a large base of young, upwardly mobile leftist voters that are active in local politics. In 2018, North Brooklyn elected Marxist Julia Salazar to the State Senate, as the area is known for a hotbed of DSA activism. Maya Wiley also dominated these neighborhoods, receiving some of her best margins throughout the city in these NY-12 election districts. The Brooklyn section of NY12, from an ideological, economic, and age perspective, presents trouble for Maloney, who was clobbered in Brooklyn in 2020, earning a meager 20.7% of the vote there, finishing third behind Suraj Patel’s 46.1% and Lauren Ashcraft’s 26.4%. This was a disastrous showing that nearly cost her the race. While the Brooklyn vote share, when compared to the rest of the district, is small, Maloney’s vulnerability here is staggering. A credible case can be made that, if Maloney had faced just Patel in 2020, she would have been upset, largely due to her huge deficits in neighborhoods like this. With district lines being redrawn for the 2022 race, Maloney would benefit immensely from Brooklyn being cut out of her Congressional District.
To build a winning coalition, Maloney will have to hold tight to her control of the Upper East Side, while making a concerted effort to shore up her support in Turtle Bay and Stuyvesant Town. Manhattan must be rock solid for her, as she is at risk of struggling mightily in Queens and Brooklyn again. For Abdelhamid, she must consolidate Queens and Brooklyn leftist voters, while building a coalition of support from DSA aligned activists and elected officials, in a way Patel never could. Abdelhamid has a higher ceiling of leftist support than Patel does, but Patel, who avoided using socialist language, has a messaging style more rooted in change and progressivism, rather than radical politics, which plays better with Manhattan voters.
Suraj Patel, who challenged Maloney in 2018 and 2020, nearly eked out a victory last year - losing 40,362 to 37,106. He is heavily considering running for a third time. Will he try again, and potentially gift Maloney a victory by plurality?
Third Time’s The Charm?
Patel, an attorney and business ethics professor at NYU, built off the momentum from his 2018 campaign, and, with increased voter turnout, nearly pulled off the upset. Patel, with greater name recognition, made significant gains in every borough as Maloney lost ground to him.
Patel lamented that the presence of leftists Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison in the 2020 race cost him the election. However, that narrative does not tell the full story. Ashcraft and Harrison, both democratic socialists, fully embraced leftist rhetoric on a myriad of issues, to which the more business-friendly Patel would only mince words. Many on the Left were inherently skeptical of Patel, who had not been heard from much in Left spaces prior to his run for office. His campaign did not have a grassroots donation base, and instead was financed by large donations, many of whom were from hotel executives outside the state. Patel raised 3x more money from Indiana than he did from New York, many of which were max contributions from wealthy real estate developers. Anecdotally, Patel had a reputation for alienating people on the Left with antagonizing behavior from his campaign. You can believe me or not, but this is borne out in his staggering lack of endorsements. Many progressives and leftists chose to sit out, or even endorse Maloney, who inspired goodwill with organizations like Sunrise NYC due to her support of the Green New Deal and Green New Deal for Public Housing.
Patel could run again easily, and his lack of ties to the left movement in NYC means his decision is not beholden to anyone but himself. If he does run, he will undoubtedly have a donor base, name recognition, and identifiable voters who will support him. How much of this remains durable is the question. Some of his support is tied to having been the only viable alternative to Maloney. If Abdelhamid surges, will his supporters defect to her? Patel could see himself caught in the middle. Maloney, with the help of the DCCC, Pro-Israel groups and much of the party establishment, will be looking to consolidate moderates and weary liberals. If Abdelhamid parlays her strong fundraising and endorsements into on the ground momentum and a consolidation of the socialist left - bridging Western Queens, North Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan - Patel might not have any path forward to victory.
But, if Patel ran again, Maloney would likely win with a plurality.
At this point, his candidacy could just kneecap Abdelhamid, and much of her viability depends on Patel staying out of the race. She knows this more than anyone.
When asked, Abdelhamid had some choice words for Patel:
“He’s already run twice and lost both times. He hasn’t been able to consolidate the progressive vote. No one who has challenged Maloney in the past has run a truly progressive campaign and offered a clear contrast to her. And I think I’ll be able to do that.”
Personal Prediction: I think Patel stays out of the race due to great pressure from folks on the Left OR he declares, but then drops out and backs Abdelhamid closer to the primary.
Lines of Attack
It is important to remember that Maloney, although somewhat vulnerable, is neither Joe Crowley nor Elliot Engel, both identity mismatches that abandoned their districts for life in the DC suburbs. After having escaped primary defeat the two previous cycles, Maloney knows a crucial barometer for maintaining her seat rests in making a concerted effort to pivot leftward and highlight her progressive credentials. Maloney routinely highlights her co-sponsorship of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Her shift hopes to resemble Ed Markey’s, who - despite supporting the Iraq War and taking big money from Wall Street - became a darling of the young online left for championing climate policy, which thus helped him reverse a double digit polling deficit and shatter the Kennedy family’s perfect campaign record in Massachusetts. On social media, Maloney is keen to highlight her progressive credentials in an effort to appeal to younger left leaning voters. The threat of Abdelhamid only adds more urgency to this effort.
Maloney’s campaign contributions will be a target of Abdelhamid throughout the race, as some of her largest donors are Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and real estate developers. Just 3% of Maloney’s fundraising is from donations under $200, with 46% coming from large donations ($200+) , 40% from Corporate PAC’s, and 9% from self financing. Abdelhamid will easily contrast her fundraising to Maloney, as all Justice Democrat candidates refuse all Corporate PAC money. Abdelhamid will be able to point to her grassroots donor base as evidence that Maloney, who relies on contributions from the wealthy and powerful, will be too easily bought off by powerful interests. The income inequality that is pervasive throughout the district will also be carefully woven into this narrative, as Abdelhamid will inevitably bring up that Maloney loaned her own campaign 300K for her 2020 race, which would tie in Maloney’s personal wealth to imply she is out of touch.
Maloney will also be attacked for past votes, primarily her votes in favor of the 1994 Clinton Crime Bill, the 1999 deregulation of the financial industry, and the 2002 vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. These are black marks on her congressional legacy and Abdelhamid will be eager to bring up such skeletons. Maloney has also come under fire for past questionable comments where she voiced concerns about vaccines and their potential links to autism. Given the current polarization of vaccines, Maloney’s comments could easily be cut with deceptive editing and a lack of context (the politics special), and made into a very effective television ad.
Abdelhamid, despite being a native of Astoria, has lived slightly outside the boundaries of NY12 for the past decade. Thus, she will face criticism that she is not from the district and moved in for the sole purpose of running. Many across the Democratic ideological spectrum might share that concern, as well as have questions about her work for Google as a marketing professional. Part of Jay Jacobs’ rant proved to foreshadow attacks against Abdelhamid, indicating that her support for defunding the police, decriminalization of sex work, and critiques of capitalism would come under intense fire.
Israel-Palestine has the potential to be a significant lightning rod in this race, polarizing wide swaths of voters throughout the district. Maloney is a strong and consistent supporter of Israel, even voting against the Iran Deal in 2015. Abdelhamid, a Muslim who favors conditioning aid to Israel, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Manhattan’s Upper East Side is home to a substantial population of older Democratic Jewish voters, many of whom are active in local political clubs and consistently show up to the polls every year. These voters have the potential to break overwhelmingly for Maloney. Yet, across the East River, Palestinian sympathies are much greater, and if this issue partially defines the race, expect the boroughwide divide to be even greater. An additional lurking variable is that many Pro-Israel PACs have the capacity to flood the race with independent expenditure money, eagerly castigating Abdelhamid as a dangerous anti-Israel radical. In Nina Turner’s (a fellow Justice Dem and DSA member) August 3rd special election defeat in OH-11, Pro-Israeli PAC’s blanketed the airways with ads against Turner in the closing weeks, which contributed greatly to her loss. Expect similar expenditures to be deployed against Abdelhamid if Maloney is in trouble.
Every decade, as new census data rolls in, congressional and state legislative districts are redrawn to account for changes in population. New York State fell a whopping 89 people short on the Census of keeping all 27 of its congressional seats, losing one to go down to 26. With a Democratic House majority in jeopardy in 2022, there is tremendous pressure on NY State Democrats to draw favorable boundaries for themselves with the hope of creating districts that are difficult for Republicans to win - currently Democrats outnumber Republicans 19 to 8. Democrats have control of the Governorship, State Assembly and State Senate simultaneously for the first time in decades, and will look to pick up more house seats throughout the state, and potentially preserve their narrow House majority statewide. This partisan gerrymandering could have reverberations for much of New York City’s congressional delegation, drastically affecting the scope of this race, and many others.
Here, I will preview some potential scenarios I have thought of, while assessing the impact they would have on the race:
+ Lower East Side
Maloney is given Nydia Velazquez’s portion of the Lower East Side, which is currently part of NY-7. In turn, Maloney cedes the Brooklyn section(primarily Greenpoint) to the more progressive Velazquez. This would be a net positive for Maloney, who would pick up moderate votes from Chinatown and low income residents on the Lower East Side. Most importantly, she would shed Greenpoint, where she finished 3rd in 2020, which would deal a devastating blow to Abdelhamid’s chances.
Freshman Bronx rep Ritchie Torres loses his seat in the redistricting process - due to a census undercount. Torres would have his seat reapportioned to other Bronx members, primarily Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In turn, Ocasio-Cortez would potentially lose part of her Queens portion to NY-12. While keeping the more Latino heavy areas, like Elmhurst and Corona, she loses Astoria-Ditmars. NY-12 either loses the Brooklyn portion or parts of the East Village, Murray Hill and Kips Bay.
✖ East Village/Murray Hill/Kips Bay
Net positive for Abdelhamid, who should win many of the immigrant communities in Astoria especially with the potential help of Tiffany Cabán.
Net neutral for both candidates. While Astoria bodes well for Abdelhamid, she will miss out on the chance to run up the score in Brooklyn, whose high margins are crucial for her ability to pull off the upset.
+ East Harlem
✖ East Village or Greenpoint
Parts of East Harlem are added to the district, at the expense of the East Village or a portion of the Brooklyn section of the district. Maloney, who used to represent Spanish Harlem in the City Council, would be the favorite to do well in this scenario. This past June, East Harlem residents heavily supported Eric Adams, Tali Farhadia Weinstein, and Diana Ayala - indicating a preference for more establishment, moderate candidates. East Harlem has a high concentration of public housing, and, while a far cry from her Upper East Side base, Maloney has done very well with NYCHA voters, which have proved to be one of her strongest and durable voting blocs.
Rep Jerry Nadler, whose district spans much of Manhattan’s West Side, has a sliver of his district in Brooklyn. In this scenario, he loses that Brooklyn piece to Nydia Velazquez, who then either cedes part of her Northern Brooklyn portion or her Lower East Side portion to NY12. To compensate for Nadler’s loss, he is given parts of NY12’s Midtown Manhattan portion.
+ Parts of Northern Brooklyn
✖ Parts of Midtown Manhattan
A huge net negative for Maloney, who would lose some very favorable turf that has consistently supported her in the past. Midtown voters skew older, wealthier and whiter. In exchange, she would be given the gentrified areas of Northern Williamsburg which hold swaths of younger, more leftist voters. Midtown is to Kathryn Garcia as North Brooklyn is to Maya Wiley.
+ Lower East Side
✖Parts of Midtown Manhattan
A slight negative for Maloney, who sheds almost guaranteed support in Midtown for more unknowns on the LES. While she should have the upper hand in locking down supporters here, she will unlikely be able to reach the margins she would in other areas of Manhattan.
+ Parts West Side of Manhattan
✖ North Brooklyn and Western Queens
Abdelhamid, as well as her base in Western Queens and North Brooklyn, is completely drawn out of the district and she can no longer run against Maloney, instead being reapportioned to Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez or Nydia Velazquez district. This would be a disaster for Abdelhamid and Justice Democrats, who would have to scrap their entire election plans for this race. For Maloney, this would be a dream scenario, as she adds more of Manhattan to her district while simultaneously cutting out all her challengers (who live across the river) and mitigating her greatest electoral weaknesses. Redistricting guru Dave Wasserman actually predicted this today, and he does this for a living, so maybe trust him. Still, Wasserman’s map is a little funky, as he jettisons much of Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez’s districts out of the City, which would be stunning.
In summation: The Brooklyn portion of the district remaining in NY12 is crucial to Abdelhamid’s chances, while any additions to the Manhattan portion are likely to benefit Maloney. Given that the state party controls the redistricting process, and Maloney has seniority and remains in good standing both locally and nationally, means that this process will likely favor her, while at worst being a net neutral.
While forecasting endorsements is fun, most only help on the margins. The ability of most individual endorsements, either from organizations or elected officials, to whip votes for their preferred candidate, is quite limited. Many endorsements, when combined together, can effectively signify the building of a coalition, while highlighting the candidate’s viability.
However, there are three power brokers in NY-12 capable of moving votes on their own: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The New York Times, and DSA. Their involvement, or lack thereof, is critical in shaping the outcome of this race.
The wildcard in this race is whether Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will get involved. Ocasio-Cortez has quickly established herself as the premier endorsement in New York City politics, especially amongst left leaning voters. Only The New York Times can rival her collective influence. In 2020, she endorsed four challengers primarying incumbents: Jabari Brisport, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Marcela Mitaynes, and Jamaal Bowman - they all won (with the help of DSA). In 2021, AOC helped ignite Brad Lander’s Comptroller campaign, which had lost momentum following Corey Johnson’s entrance into the race. Ocasio-Cortez, who was featured prominently in a series of TV ads, helped spur Lander to victory (with the help of The Times), as he won large margins in North Brooklyn and Western Queens. Similarly, her endorsement helped jumpstart Maya Wiley’s late surge, after she languished in single digits polls for much of the Mayoral primary, culminating in a second place finish on the first ballot. While her appeal is not uniform citywide, she has shown a remarkable ability to coalesce and turnout her most loyal voting blocs. Many of her political allies, coupled with growing DSA chapters, reside in the Queens and Brooklyn sections of NY-12. Very few politicians are capable of moving real coalitions of voters within the city. Ocasio-Cortez is undoubtedly one of them.
On one hand, endorsing Abdelhamid seems only natural. Abdelhamid, so far, is Justice Democrats’ biggest candidate in the 2022 cycle. Ocasio-Cortez is the signature Justice Dem, a proud member of their first slate of candidates in 2018. Many within the organization are without a doubt making calls already lobbying for her support. It is hard to imagine that Justice Democrats would run a primary in a neighboring congressional district without at least consulting Ocasio-Cortez. Part of the ethos of an organization like Justice Democrats is for their already elected members to support others vying for office. If Abdelhamid is endorsed by DSA, which aligns with Ocasio-Cortez on a lionshare of her endorsements, the pressure on her will only mount. Abdelhamid, if elected, would be the third socialist in New York City’s congressional delegation. Just one year prior, Ocasio-Cortez, DSA and Justice Democrats all backed insurgent Jamaal Bowman in his victory over 16-term Bronx/Westchester rep. Elliot Engel. Given the opportunity to send another shock to both the New York and DC establishments, Ocasio-Cortez might be inclined to back Abdelhamid. A socialist winning a congressional district representing the Upper East Side would be another momentous achievement for Ocasio-Cortez and the movement that orbits her. If her strongest allies, like DSA, Tiffany Cabán, and Bowman join Abdelhamid, as Justice Democrats, Nixon, and Lander already have, the pressure on her to publicly back Abdelhamid will only mount.
Maloney has some progressive bona fides, powerful allies, and seniority in Congress, all of which could make backing a challenger to her very uncomfortable. She chairs the committee to which Ocasio-Cortez is assigned, and is supported by some of her congressional allies, like Primila Jayapal and Katie Porter. By all accounts Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney have a good personal and working relationship. She has co-sponsored both the Green New Deal and the Green New Deal for Public Housing, both authored by Ocasio-Cortez. Maloney’s ties to promoting progressive legislation and close working relationship with Ocasio-Cortez make Abdelhamid’s challenge to her a unique one in Justice Democrats brief history.
Ocasio-Cortez has earned a reputation as a cautious endorser. After supporting Cori Bush in her 2018 race against entrenched St. Louis rep. Lacy Clay, Ocasio-Cortez sat out Bush’s 2020 rematch election after Clay signed on to support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Both AOC and Bush were part of the inaugural class of Justice Dems and were featured prominently in the documentary Knock Down The House. Bush pulled off a stunning upset, but Ocasio-Cortez’s lack of outward support the second time was quite notable.
Locally, she curiously did not endorse Zohran Mamdani’s campaign against moderate incumbent Aravella Simotas for a state assembly seat in Astoria, which overlapped with her congressional district. Mamdani, a former housing counselor who helped immigrant families facing eviction stay in their homes, was endorsed by DSA, the Sunrise Movement, the Working Families Party, Julia Salazar, Bernie Sanders, Nixon, Cabán, and unions like 1199 SEIU and 32BJ. Despite progressive allies going all in for Mamdani, her overwhelming popularity in his assembly district, and their ideological symmetry (she endorsed every other DSA candidate that cycle), Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to not endorse was very questionable. Mamdani, like Bush, narrowly won, despite AOC’s absence.
Lacy Clay would never have slept on the Capitol steps to pressure the White House to extend the eviction moratorium. Both Cori Bush and Zohran Mamdani have already exhibited leadership on key leftist issues and have proven indispensable to the future of their movement. If results had been slightly different, Ocasio-Cortez might have faced more scrutiny for her lack of endorsements in such key races.
Even when endorsing Jamaal Bowman, she did so relatively late, on June 3rd for his June 23rd primary election. The logic behind endorsing late is to generate momentum down the home stretch of the campaign, but also so Ocasio-Cortez does not throw herself into scenarios where she wastes political capital backing challengers who are not viable or have not run strong campaigns. It minimizes political risk, while still helping the campaign a significant amount. RE: they have to earn it first. But by June 3rd, Bowman's internal polls already showed him pulling away from Engel, who had crumbled after being caught on a hot mic saying “If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care” in reference to police brutality protests throughout New York City. Engel humiliated himself and imploded after that, so there was little political risk in backing Bowman, especially after Justice Democrats, DSA and the Sunrise Movement had already taken the plunge much earlier.
Ocasio-Cortez can generate both momentum and viability for any candidate she endorses, a rare and impressive power that few politicians have. One fundraiser email from her can pour in hundreds of thousands to any congressional campaign.
With great power comes great responsibility.
I predict Ocasio-Cortez will not endorse in this race.
As for the other power brokers, let’s make some bold predictions.
The New York Times Editorial Board will go one of two ways:
They will not offer any endorsement for NY-12, writing that both Maloney and Abdelhamid are strong leaders, regardless of their generational and ideological differences. In their blurb on the race, they will write something along the lines of: “Voters in New York’s 12th Congressional District can be confident in both their choices for Congress in this June’s Democratic Primary. Both Maloney and Abdelhamid offer unique visions for the district, but they share many of the same progressive policy aims”.
They will endorse Maloney, citing her activity in the district while emphasizing that she blends pragmatism with progressivism. The Times will partially phrase it something like this: “Representative Maloney has given us no reason not to continue to support her candidacy. She has taken on a crucial role as chair of the Oversight Committee and her seniority within the New York delegation is critical in ensuring much needed federal dollars are invested in our city, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic”. They will also offer praise and goodwill towards Abdelhamid, highlight her vast potential, and possibly encourage her to run for a lower office.
Despite also focusing on many state assembly and state senate races, I predict that DSA will also endorse Abdelhamid. The Sunrise Movement, after recommending (not endorsing) Maloney in 2020, I believe will pivot in 2022 and endorse Abdelhamid.
Jamaal Bowman, who has expressed a willingness to endorse in a plethora of races, is the most likely member of New York City’s congressional delegation to endorse Abdelhamid. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez will likely stay neutral or endorse Maloney. Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks will surely support Maloney. Jeffries’ new PAC, Team Blue, designed to protect incumbents, might play a role in making sure Maloney can win the financial arms race.
Eric Adams, the next Mayor, and Carlina Rivera, the favorite to become the next City Council speaker, both endorsed Maloney in 2020. It will be interesting to see, as their power has grown, if they look to expend their political capital on such a contentious congressional primary. Rivera will likely sit out, as she’ll be engaged in enough battles as Council Speaker. But Adams, always eager for a war of words with DSA, might be inclined to try and flex his proverbial muscle against Abdelhamid. Whether engaging in such fights is a mistake on his behalf, remains to be seen.
Governor Cuomo looks poised to resign this week or face certain impeachment. Thus, the open 2022 primary for Governor could significantly affect who endorses. Should Kristin Gillibrand, Kathy Hochul or Alessandra Biaggi run, they are more likely to offer their support to Maloney, whom they all have endorsed in the past. However, if Public Advocate Jumaane Williams were to run for Governor and chose to weigh in on the NY-12 primary, it would be in support of Abdelhamid, especially considering his close relationship with her earliest supporters, Brad Lander and Cynthia Nixon.
Maloney will hold onto much of, if not all of her support from organized labor, who are often the most cautious organizations in backing insurgent candidates.
Maloney does not stand to benefit from endorsements as much as Abdelhamid, who has a high ceiling as a candidate. If Abdelhamid catches fire, earns free media and national attention, gets endorsements from Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Squad, produces a viral video, and raises millions to invest in TV for the last month, then Maloney could be in trouble. Maloney wins by keeping the heavyweight endorsers at bay, and mitigating her own personal gaffes and mistakes, thus preventing an Abdelhamid momentum breakthrough.
Regardless of the result, everyone will have a narrative as to why they were right about the race. If Abdelhamid wins, media detractors will point to gentrification in Astoria, Long Island City and Greenpoint and nothing more. These pundits will cast Maloney away as a relic of the past, cut from the same cloth as Crowley and Engel, ignoring the very real and tangible strength leftist voters have built in Western Queens and Northern Brooklyn. If Maloney wins, she will be lionized like Yvette Clarke for beating back primary challenges, while the credibility of New York’s left movement is questioned once more. Certain politicians will take to Cable News or Twitter to gloat. People on the Left will be tempted to blame the loss on Maloney’s incumbency, establishment support, and PAC spending, without reflecting on her strengths with the district's voters and some of Abdelhamid’s weaknesses.
While over 10 months away, this race between Carolyn Maloney and Rana Abdelhamid - and the economic, ideological, social, and geographical factors that orbit it - has the potential to be New York’s most pivotal battle of 2022, while serving as an inflection point for the future of City and National politics.
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