Ahead of New York’s August 23rd primary, voters will get a chance to hear from the candidates in the hotly contested 12th Congressional District on WNYC Tuesday night.
Jon Campbell stopped by “Morning Edition” with a look at what to expect. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tell us about tomorrow’s debate. Who’s in it and how can people tune in?
This is a big one. It’s a democratic primary debate in this new 12th district, which covers almost the entire area east side to west side from 13th Street to a 115th Street in Manhattan.
And this is the race that pits two Manhattan institutions against each other: that’s Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney. They’re both sitting members of Congress who’ve served for nearly 30 years and they both chose to run in the 12th district after the district lines were redrawn earlier this year. They’re both participating in the debate tomorrow along with Suraj Patel, a progressive attorney. It’s a 90-minute debate at the CUNY Graduate Center. We at WNYC are co-sponsoring it and it’s airing live alongside Spectrum News NY1. The fun starts at 7 pm It will be moderated by our very own senior politics reporter Brigid Bergin alongside NY1 political anchor Errol Louis.
We should also note there is a fourth candidate on the ballot, Ashmi Sheth. She didn’t meet the campaign fundraising threshold to participate in this debate so she won’t be part of the debate tomorrow night.
New Yorkers have long been familiar with Maloney and Nadler. Why are they running against each other and what can we expect to hear from them?
Voters in Manhattan have been casting ballots for the two of them for literally decades, but this is the first time they’ve squared off against each other. And that’s all thanks to redistricting. For years, you had Nadler repping a district on the West Side, you had Maloney on the East Side, but that was all thrown out of the window earlier this year when the state’s redistricting process imploded in the courts and an independent expert was brought in to draw new district lines. Those new lines got rid of the old East Side/West Side split that was in place for decades. Instead it put Upper Manhattan and Lower Manhattan into different districts.
So, during this debate, you’re going to hear from both Maloney and Nadler, they’re both going to try to tout their records. They were both elected in 1992. They’ve both climbed the ranks and become these influential committee chairs in the House. Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee, Maloney chairs the Oversight Committee, and they’re gonna make their case that their experience is a boon for the district, particularly when the House puts a really big emphasis on seniority. But one of them has to lose, so New York’s congressional delegation is gonna lose quite a bit of that seniority one way or the other.
And what about Suraj Patel? Does he have a chance at beating these incumbents?
There’s no doubt he’s gonna be a factor here. Whether he can pull off a major upset, that really remains to be seen. He ran against Maloney twice before in that East Side district that we talked about and in 2020 he actually gave her a huge scare. I mean, he came within just a few points of beating her. So this year, he’s hoping that the incumbent vote kind of cancels each other out here; that Nadler and Maloney, they split the same pool of voters and, in theory, that could open up a lane for him to kind of squeak by. He’s running from their left and tomorrow you can bet he’s gonna try to paint himself as the progressive choice here and an opportunity to bring fresh ideas into the House of Representatives.
Voters will also get to cast a ballot in the state Senate primaries on August 23rd while the statewide and assembly primaries were already decided in June. What’s the reason for the split and what are some of the other big races you’ll be watching?
That’s another consequence of the redistricting debacle earlier this year when a judge threw out the state’s congressional and state Senate maps in May. It was too close to the June 28th primary to draw up new maps. So the Assembly and statewide primaries, they stayed put in June, and these other primaries were moved to August 23rd. There are a number of races outside of the 12th district that we’ll be watching. Of course, there’s the 10th district in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn where there are 13, yes, 13 candidates on the ballot — though former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is one of them and he’s already dropped out of the race.
And in the state Senate, there are a number of incumbents on the Democratic side that are facing a challenge in the city. There’s State Sen. Kevin Parker of Flatbush — he’s running against David Alexis and Kaegan Mays-Williams.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, the chair of the health committee, is running against Miguelina Camilo, who has the backing of the borough’s Democratic party leaders actually,
And already we’ve seen some outside spending on those races. A super PAC called New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, they’ve raised about $1.3 million this cycle, mostly from Wall Street. That PAC has been spending in support of Parker and Camillo and we’re sure to see more before primary day.
Is it too late to register, to vote in the primary?
It is too late to register. That deadline passed on Friday, but it’s not too late to switch your party if there’s a particular race that’s in your district that you want to vote in — that’s yet another consequence of the court’s redistricting decision. It opened up this loophole where just for this August 23rd primary, you can switch your party up to and including on Primary Day and vote in your new party’s races. That’s not usually the case in New York. New York is what’s known as a closed primary state. Usually the deadline to switch parties would have been in February. There’s been some chatter among political leaders that maybe they’ll ask the court to step in and close that loophole. But for now that remains wide open.