Carolyn, or Change?: Maloney and Nadler vie for same 12th District Congress seat, but Patel hopes to knock both incumbents off

Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney have a combined 60 years of experience on Capitol Hill, often fighting for the same issues as tried and true Democrats. But now, they find themselves against each other seeking re-election after redistricting cast them both in New York’s 12th District starting next January.

Not long after the revised maps became official, both Nadler and Maloney made clear neither would bow for the other, and both would leave it to the voters to decide who would represent them. Of course, this isn’t a two-way race — as Suraj Patel, who unsuccessfully tried to defeat Maloney in the last two Congressional primaries, now seeks to knock both incumbents off in one fell swoop.

The result is a three-way political showdown heading toward the Aug. 23 Congressional primary in which two of New York’s most veteran lawmakers and an upstart seeking change will battle to represent the same Manhattan area next year, and for potentially the next 10 years to come.

The current 12th District, which Maloney has held for the last decade, extends into parts of western Queens and northern Brooklyn. Nadler currently reps the 10th District which runs primarily along the west side of Manhattan before crossing the Hugh Carey (Brooklyn-Battery) Tunnel into central and southern Brooklyn. 

But the court-ordered redistricting plan approved late on May 20 moved the new 12th District squarely into the center of Manhattan, running as far south as Chelsea, the Flatiron District and Kips Bay to as far north as Yorkville, Carnegie Hill and the Upper West Side. The 10th District still spans the Battery Tunnel and runs into central and southern Brooklyn, but Nadler’s home turf on the west side of Manhattan is now gone.

The next day, both Nadler and Maloney said they were running for the 12th District seat. Neither would give an inch, despite both having each served close to 30 years in office — Nadler, 74, was first elected in 1992, while Maloney, 76, took office the following year.

Both Nadler and Maloney hold powerful positions in the Democratic-led Congress. Nadler serves as House Judiciary Committee chair, having led efforts to twice impeach former President Donald Trump. Maloney serves as House Oversight Committee chair, and has been vocal in fights such as providing healthcare to 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, and rescuing the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service.

And Nadler and Maloney are neither running from their incumbency — nor are they signaling that they’re willing to give it up so easily.

“This new district belongs to no individual candidate, but instead to the voters who call it home,” Nadler said in a statement posted on Twitter early on Saturday morning. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue steadfastly serving the West Side and eager to introduce myself — and my record of principled leadership — more fully to the neighboring communities of the East Side.”

Maloney seemed to take a swipe at Nadler in her statement announcing her re-election candidacy, noting that she would not be told, like other “qualified and accomplished women … to stand aside for the sake of men’s egos.” 

“I was the first woman elected to represent New Yorker’s 12th District, the first woman to give birth while serving in the New York City Council, and the first woman to chair the House Oversight Committee — and I refuse to be pushed around,” Maloney said. “I’m not scared of a fight. I’m ready to go above and beyond to earn the votes of the new NY-12 and make sure my constituents have the leader they deserve.”

Maloney noted that roughly 60% of the current 12th District area was retained in redistricting, which on the surface would seem to give her a home field advantage.

Attorney and activist Suraj Patel (Courtesy of the Suraj Patel campaign)

But Patel, 38, in a video statement, charged that both Maloney and Nadler had served too long for any good they’ve done of late.

“My competitors are fighting over who gets more credit for the state of the country. They can have it,” he said. “[The] 1990s politicians have lost every major battle to [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell. To win our country back, we need to make a new case for New York values. We need new messengers.”

Patel, an attorney and self-described business leader, lost to Maloney twice in the last two Congressional primaries for the 12th District seat. Maloney narrowly defeated Patel in the 2020 pandemic primary election marred by a mailed ballot snafu. 

At the end of his announcement video, Patel looked back at a picture of him with former President Barack Obama, for whom he worked. Obama stunned the Democratic political establishment in 2008 en route to victory in that year’s presidential race, riding one campaign theme in particular.

“Sometimes you need to take a chance on change,” Patel said in the video.