‘Absolutely stunned’: New York House map sets off chaos, backbiting among Dems
Committee chair pitted against committee chair. The head of the Democratic Caucus looped in with another senior Black Democrat. The party’s campaign chief accused of bigfooting his way into the district of a Black freshman.
The newly redrawn New York congressional map didn’t just erase the political advantage the party hoped to gain through gerrymandering before state courts stepped in to stop them. It also set New York’s Democratic incumbents against each other in a zero-sum game of survival — which will soon see some of them brawling in primaries and left others pleading with the court-appointed map-drawer to change course.
By Monday night, it was apparent just how ugly it could get, as Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) made clear what he thought of neighboring Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s decision to declare a run for a district made up of more of Jones’ turf.
“Sean Patrick Maloney did not even give me a heads up before he went on Twitter to make that announcement,” Jones said. “And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Sean Patrick Maloney.”
Maloney, the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, announced he will be seeking reelection in the new seat, which includes Putnam and Rockland counties and parts of Westchester County, because it includes his home of Cold Spring, N.Y. The decision came less than hour after the map was made public, drawing complaints from some in the delegation, particularly given Maloney’s high-profile party leadership role. Maloney’s allies, meanwhile, argued there was no reason for him to have to move his family into a new seat.
The public sparring between Maloney and Jones, who said he has not decided where he will run, is not an isolated instance. While Democrats are expected to resolve some possible member-versus-member matchups, at least two senior party members are publicly bracing to take on a longtime colleague and fellow committee leader.
“Absolutely stunned,” said House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is set to face House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, when asked about the redrawn maps. They both plan to run in the redrawn version of her current district, which will now include midtown and much of the West Side.
“I’ve never lost an election; I don’t intend to start now,” Maloney said.
Democrats are working feverishly to influence the draft map before it is finalized on Friday, with lawmakers and local activists lodging their formal complaints in a 48-hour public comment period. A special master was tasked with redrawing the state’s 26 congressional districts after a court tossed out a map drawn by the Democratic Legislature as an illegal partisan gerrymander.
The special master’s proposal released early Monday afternoon roiled the Democratic caucus. Multiple Democrats called it an affront to established communities of interest, particularly diverse communities in New York City. House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries released a digital ad slamming the map.
“The draft map released by a Judicial Overseer in Steuben County and unelected, out-of-town Special Master, both of whom happen to be white men, is part of a vicious national pattern targeting districts represented by members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” he said in a statement Monday.
It’s unclear how much will change before the final map is released. The current version scrambled the lower Hudson Valley, including placing Jones’ home in with another Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, while putting the bulk of his current district in the seat where Sean Patrick Maloney is now running.
Much of Maloney’s current seat lies in a district to the north. The move baffled some Democrats, who wondered why he would force Jones to choose between running against him or Bowman.
“I’m really shocked that my district will be obliterated in the way that it was and that they would draw my residence into the same district as Jamaal’s residence,” Jones said.
Maloney’s decision has also created a recruitment crunch in another district. Democrats must field candidates for an open district that resembles the one held by Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), who is resigning to become lieutenant governor, as well as the neighboring district that Maloney is leaving behind. Both seats could be highly competitive in a midterm environment; President Joe Biden would have carried both by a single-digit margin, according to statistics released with the special master’s draft plan.
(Biden carried the new 17th District, where Maloney chose to run instead, by roughly 10 points.)
Maloney allies, meanwhile, questioned whether Jones, who is to the left Maloney ideologically, could run in a seat that will be competitive. Jones and Bowman, both Black progressives, won their seats last year. Bowman, who belongs to the ultra-liberal Squad, defeated Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, and Jones won an open seat.
It’s a huge turnaround for a delegation that had hoped to be one of the party’s bright spots in an otherwise glum midterm landscape. Much of that hope, however, vanished when the courts threw out the Legislature’s gerrymandered maps — and it receded further with Monday’s maps.
“You look at the Bowman, Jones, Maloney seats — it just doesn’t make sense,” said Rep. Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.), who said he’s received a “flood” of phone calls and hopes to convince the state’s mapmaker to make critical changes to the draft.
Meeks, a powerhouse in New York politics, was spotted in conversation off the House floor Monday night with Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.). Nearby, upstate Democratic Rep. Joseph Morelle was overheard telling GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis — whose Staten Island district was under threat in the Democratic-drawn map but looks safer now — “Good day for you.”
Morelle was less enthusiastic about what the map meant for his party.
“That’s not only not good for the House, the institution, I don’t think it’s good for New York,” Morelle later told a reporter. “Two of our leading members may be facing each other. It’s just tragic.”
Katherine Tully-McManus and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.