Jun 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Progressives turn up the heat on House Democrats' campaign chair

Sean Patrick Maloney

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

A trio of progressive groups on Thursday endorsed a primary challenger to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), escalating a campaign of retribution against the man in charge of salvaging House Democrats' majority in November.

Why it matters: Progressives have waged a nationwide effort to take out moderate and establishment incumbents, and Maloney would likely be their highest-profile ouster of the cycle.

Driving the news: On Thursday, a trio of progressive groups — the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, New York Progressive Action Network and Democracy for America — endorsed state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in her bid against Maloney.

  • The development comes after the progressive Working Families Party switched its endorsement from Maloney to Biaggi.
  • Biaggi also has the support of the most high-profile progressive member of New York’s congressional delegation: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The backdrop: Maloney stoked anger from the left by running in a redrawn district mostly represented by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a progressive freshman who is now running for an open seat in New York City miles away from his home turf.

  • Biaggi, who had been running in an open district that was similarly upended by redistricting, then opted to run against Maloney.

But, but, but: There are some key differences between Maloney and other progressive targets.

  • Maloney is more liberal than moderates like Schrader and Cuellar, his campaign notes, pointing to his original co-sponsorship of the Green New Deal and elimination of the DCCC‘s consultant blacklist.
  • He also has a leadership role that has enmeshed him in the Democrats' campaign apparatus.
  • Progressive heavy hitters like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have so far stayed on the sidelines.
  • The Congressional Progressive Caucus will keep to its policy of staying neutral in races with incumbents, according to a source familiar with its plans. CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) made an exception earlier this year by endorsing Cuellar's challenger.

What they're saying: Maloney's allies argue that support from outside left-wing groups will do little to help Biaggi build support for a seat in which she's a relative newcomer.

  • Suzanne Berger, the chair of the Westchester County Democratic Committee, said the groups "represent a very, very insignificant number of voters in the district," adding that Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement is a "net loss" for Biaggi given the moderate views of voters in the district.
  • “The voices that will matter in this race are standing with Rep. Maloney thanks to his long-standing connections to the district and strong record of delivering for working families in the Hudson Valley," Maloney campaign spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg told Axios.

What to watch for: Maloney has considerable structural advantages, including endorsements from local party leaders and unions, but recent history suggests Biaggi has a fighting chance.

  • New York has seen powerful Democratic incumbents ousted in the last two cycles: No. 4 House Democrat Joe Crowley in 2018 and former Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel in 2020.
  • Biaggi won her own state legislature seat by taking out a longtime moderate incumbent who irked Democrats by joining a breakaway faction that caucused with Republicans.
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