Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is resisting White House pressure to avoid a New York Senate primary.
Vice President Biden called the congresswoman earlier this week to discuss the race, according to sources, but the nine-term lawmaker is still considering challenging Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE (D-N.Y.).
Maloney has laid the groundwork for a primary campaign, hiring public-relations strategists and fundraisers in both Washington and New York.
A source close to Maloney said Biden did not specifically ask her to stay out of the race and that the conversation would not affect Maloney’s decision.
It is the second time the White House has gotten involved in the New York primary on Gillibrand’s behalf.
“We’ve made it clear we’re behind Sen. Gillibrand,” a senior White House official said of Biden’s call, which was first reported by The Hill.
Last month, President Obama called Rep. Steve Israel (D) to ask him not to run, a call Israel cited in withdrawing his name from consideration.
Even a chat with the vice president may not be enough to sway Maloney; she is among the several members of New York City’s congressional delegation who were upset that Gillibrand won appointment to fill Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat, particularly given Gillibrand’s more centrist leanings on issues like immigration and gun rights.
Maloney and Israel, more liberal lawmakers, were among the Democrats on Gov. David Paterson’s (D) shortlist for the appointment, according to media reports.
A Maloney aide said the congresswoman is listening to Democrats around New York as she considers her options. Some of those conversations have involved her colleagues in the Empire State’s congressional delegation.
“Congresswoman Maloney and I have talked extensively today. We talked yesterday. I have not discouraged her from running,” Israel said on Capital News 9 on Wednesday. “She has been talking to all of her colleagues and it seems to me, based on those conversations, that she is getting quite close.
“I am absolutely open to considering [Maloney] or any other candidates who might emerge,” Israel said. “I understand that somebody can be appointed to the Senate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you get anointed to the Senate.”
Her supporters stressed that Maloney has not made a final decision.
“She’s made it clear she’s seriously considering [running],” said Barry Nolan, a Maloney adviser. “It’s an important question to ask ... Whose thinking is more in keeping with the feelings of New Yorkers? She and the current senator agree on a lot of things, but they disagree with some things.”
Nolan and other Maloney aides had nothing to say about the call with Biden.
A Biden spokeswoman called the two old friends.
Maloney advisers and allies said Thursday there are no imminent plans for her to announce a decision.
If she does run, political observers say, it will set up a geographic battle as well as an ideological fight. Maloney is from New York City, home of more than half the Democratic primary electorate. Gillibrand is from a GOP-leaning House district upstate.
“The danger for Sen. Gillibrand has always been the Democratic primary, not the general election,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist.
Upstate politicians have a difficult time winning statewide elections in New York. No one from upstate has been elected to the Senate since 1958, when Republican Kenneth Keating won a single term (He was defeated by Robert Kennedy six years later).
But Maloney faces a financial challenge, political observers said. She will have to raise between $6 million and $10 million to be competitive in the primary.
Maloney “has been a good fundraiser over the course of her career, but the institutional powers who want to keep her from running are going to try to block that money,” Sheinkopf said. “You can’t block [Maloney] — she’s a subcommittee chair. That’s not going to happen.”
The White House has also waded into the Pennsylvania Democratic primary on behalf of Sen. Arlen Specter (D), though Rep. Joe Sestak (D) has said he is still likely to run for the upper chamber.