State Watch

NY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney

Greg Nash

The chairman of the New York Democratic Party on Wednesday berated the progressive group Justice Democrats after it backed a primary challenger to longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Jay Jacobs issued a stinging statement over Justice Democrats’ support for Rana Abdelhamid, a 27-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), arguing in support of Maloney’s progressive bona fides.

“There is no question that Abdelhamid has every right to run for Congress and to primary a sitting incumbent Democrat. However, the argument that she and her ‘Justice Democrats’ and ‘Democratic Socialists of America’ allies put forth that Carolyn Maloney is not progressive enough is just pure nonsense,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs credited Maloney, the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, with supporting anti-rape legislation, a bill to enhance benefits to 9/11 first responders and a slew of coronavirus relief measures, including $1,400 stimulus checks to families, boosted unemployment insurance and increasing the child tax credit. He also touted her backing of election reform legislation and statehood for Washington, D.C.

“Make no mistake about it. This challenge is not about progressive causes. This challenge is about one thing: power. Maloney has it and the DSA wants it. Maloney can proudly stand on her record,” Jacobs said.

“The DSA and Justice Democrats have a long history of cherry-picking the districts they compete in, the opponents they believe they can beat and the issues that they choose to talk about. Well, with Carolyn Maloney, this time, they have picked the wrong opponent.” 

The primary challenge marks the latest salvo in the fight between establishment Democrats and the party’s progressive flank.

Justice Democrats first burst onto the scene in 2018 when it helped now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) defeat former Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a primary.

The group then helped Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) defeat former Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) in a primary battle last year, marking the second time it had toppled a top House Democrat in a deep-blue New York district.

Justice Democrats did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding Jacobs’s statement, but the group earlier on Wednesday cast the primary challenge from Abdelhamid as part of a generational fight against the party establishment.

“Voters and activists all across the district have made clear that they want to help usher in a new generation of leadership into the Democratic Party free of corporate money and dedicated to uplifting all of our communities,” the group’s executive director, Alexandra Rojas, said in a statement.

Abdelhamid panned Jacobs, saying his rebuke was an attempt to divert attention away from the scandals surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“If my primary job was defending Andrew Cuomo, I’d be looking for an excuse to talk about literally anything else too,” she tweeted. “This unhinged statement is beneath anyone claiming to represent Democrats — it could have been written by Donald Trump.”

Updated at 3:25 p.m.

Tags 2022 elections 2022 midterms Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Andrew Cuomo Carolyn Maloney Democratic Socialists of America Donald Trump Eliot Engel Jamaal Bowman Joe Crowley Justice Democrats New York primary Rana Abdelhamid

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