NEW YORK — Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is leading the effort to elect House Democrats in the midterm elections, is busy fighting for his own survival against a surprisingly strong GOP challenger.
Mr. Maloney is running for reelection in New York’s 17th Congressional District against one-term Republican Assemblyman Mike Lawler, who’s counting on a nationwide “red wave” to help him succeed in the Democrat-leaning district.
Internal polls from both parties show him in a dead heat with Mr. Lawler in the district in New York City’s Hudson Valley suburbs where President Biden won by 10 points in 2020.
With Mr. Biden’s low approval numbers in the state, high inflation and voters telling pollsters that New York and the country are going in the wrong direction, Mr. Maloney is suffering the same drag as Democratic candidates across the country.
A poll last month by McLaughlin & Associates showed Mr. Lawler ahead of Mr. Maloney 49% to 45%.
The Maloney-Lawler showdown is the product of New York’s redistricting battle this year in which the Democratic-run state legislature drew the map after the commission lawmakers created could not agree on the district boundaries. The Democrats’ map was then nixed by the state’s high court which assigned a special master to draw the final map.
Mr. Maloney, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was preparing to run against GOP Assemblyman Colin Schmitt in the old 18th District. The congressman then decided to run in the bluer 17th District.
The move angered some in his party because it forced freshman Democrat Rep. Mondaire Jones out of the district and into a multi-candidate primary in a newly drawn district in New York City, where he lost.
Mr. Maloney‘s defenders will say the party has moved on and united behind him, describing him as a “moderate problem solver” who brings “different parts of the party together.”
Most of the district is new to Mr. Maloney. Roughly 25% of the population was redistricted from the old 18th Congressional District, which Mr. Maloney had represented for 10 years, according to an analysis reported by City & State.
Around 73% of residents came from the old 17th District, where Mr. Lawler‘s assembly district is based.
Mr. Maloney‘s former district included parts of Orange, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties and the new district includes three-quarters of those counties.
The candidates both claim they represent more of the district.
“It is not really [Maloney’s] district. It’s so much new territory for Maloney, whether it be Rockland County or Northern Westchester,” said Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar. “So for Maloney, these are a lot of new constituents. And for Lawler, he‘s got a lot of constituents from his assembly seat. All 125,000 of Lawler’s assembly constituents are in this congressional seat.”
The Maloney campaign said Mr. Lawler is new to two of the three counties in the new congressional District and that the well-known congressman has been a leader in the Hudson Valley for a decade.
“Rep. Maloney has delivered for the Hudson Valley in Congress for a decade and is well-known and liked all across the region. Our campaign has been aggressive in voter outreach, paid media, and engagement with local communities throughout the 17th,” Maloney campaign spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg said. “Rep. Maloney is in a much better position to introduce himself to new voters in Rockland with his high name ID and strong relationships with local leaders than Lawler is in the portions of Rockland he doesn’t currently represent and throughout the rest of the district.”
Mr. Maloney has a money advantage. The DCCC chairman raised over $4 million this campaign cycle and has about $2.4 million cash on hand, while Mr. Lawler has raised more than $500,000 and has just over $430,000 cash on hand, according to federal election filings.
Although Mr. Lawler has trailed in fundraising, political handicappers rate the race as relatively vulnerable for the incumbent. The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates the seat as a D+3 “Lean Democrat” district.
Mr. Lawler is campaigning on the GOP‘s anti-crime platform, calling out Mr. Maloney for his party’s support of cashless bail and hammering Democrats for the flood of illegal immigrants swarming over the southern border.
The Maloney campaign is focused on bringing out his party base in the new district by attacking Mr. Lawler‘s pro-life stance. Pro-choice groups and advocates have organized several large rallies and events outside Mr. Lawler‘s fundraisers with GOP leaders.