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Tuesday's rare August primary features highly contested races for Congress

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media

The second of New York’s two primary voting days is being held on Tuesday, August 23. There are some hotly contested races, but turnout is expected to be low.

No one in New York’s Democratic establishment, including Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Democratic supermajority in the state legislature, wanted to have a primary election during peak vacation time. But then, the new Congressional and State Senate lines, drawn by Democratic lawmakers and approved by Hochul, were thrown out by the state’s highest court as being unconstitutionally gerrymandered. So they had no choice but to postpone the contests that were supposed to be held in late June.

The new districts, drawn by a court appointed special master, resulted in some unintended consequences, at least for Democrats. In Manhattan, two powerful long time stalwarts and allies in the state’s Congressional delegation, Reps. Jerry Nadler, from the Upper West Side and Carolyn Maloney, from the Upper East Side, suddenly found themselves in the same district, competing in a primary.

Maloney, during a debate on WPIX 11 said she has experience, and proven leadership abilities and should remain in office.

“We need to send experienced people who know how to fight and win during this perilous time,” Maloney said.

She said she wants to work to, among other things, enact the Equal Rights Amendment

Nadler in that debate pointed out that he, like Maloney, chairs an influential committee. Nadler is Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

“In Congress, seniority brings clout,” said Nadler. “And that clout begets you the ability to pass legislation more easily and to bring resources for the state.”

A third candidate in that race, Suraj Patel, a 38-year-old lawyer and manager of his family’s motel business, is making the case that it’s time for someone new to be in Congress.

“After 30 years of time in Washington the two opponents here, failed to codify Roe,” said Patel, referring to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the 1973 abortion rights decision Roe vs. Wade. “They failed to even hold a hearing on it.”

The special master also created a new open seat 10th congressional district that encompasses parts of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Candidates include Dan Goldman, a lead investigator in one of the impeachment trials of former President Trump, who is also heir to the Levi Strauss clothing company fortune. Also running are State Assemblywomen Yuh-Line Niou and Jo Anne Simon, and New York City Councilwoman Carly Rivera. Rep. Mondaire Jones, was moved out of a redrawn Hudson Valley district he represents to run in the new district. And also Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Brooklyn DA and New York City Comptroller, who decades ago was one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress, where she served from 1973 to 1981.

A bit further upstate, State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi is taking on incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

There are also intraparty challenges in the State Senate, where progressives Gustavo Rivera and Robert Jackson, are facing a backlash from more moderate Democrats in newly reconfigured districts in the Bronx and Washington Heights.

And it’s not just Democrats competing against each other. In Western New York, businessman Carl Paladino is facing the Republican State Party Chair Nick Langworthy.

The seat is begin vacated by Rep. Chris Jacobs, who is not seeking reelection after other members of his party criticized him for coming out in favor of gun control following a mass shooting in Buffalo.

Langworthy argues that Paladino is too controversial to serve in Congress. Paladino, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, has praised Hitler, and made disparaging racial remarks about Michelle Obama. After the FBI’s search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home for alleged classified documents, he said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland should be executed, though Paladino later said he was joking.

Polls show that race in a dead heat.

There’s also a special election on Tuesday, to fill out the remaining term of Antonio Delgado, who left Congress to become the state’s lieutenant governor.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat, faces Dutchess County Executive, Republican Marc Molinaro.

The race in the highly competitive district is considered a bellwether for the November general elections. And both the Republican and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees are spending money on ads painting the other candidate as too extreme to represent the district.

That race is also very close.

Because of redistricting though, the 19th congressional district seat that Molinaro and Ryan are running for will be reconfigured in 2023. So both are also running to represent slightly different districts in January.

Ryan is running in a primary Tuesday to fill the newly drawn 18th Congressional district seat. Molinaro will be on the November to fill the newly redrawn 19th district post next year.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.