NY Primaries “Thrown Into Chaos by Redistricting,” Favoring Conservatives

Primaries in New York’s redrawn congressional districts have led to heated battles within the Democratic Party that could have national implications. The newly created 10th Congressional District features Dan Goldman, a conservative Democrat who is heir to a multimillion dollar Levi Strauss fortune. He is up against a diverse field that includes Yuh-Line Niou and Carlina Rivera. The New York Times endorsed Goldman without noting its publisher’s connection to the millionaire. Many congressional seats have been “thrown into chaos by redistricting” and seem to favor more conservative candidates, says Alex Sammon, staff writer at The American ProspectWho has been closely following local races.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Today, primary elections are held in Florida, Oklahoma, and New York. We’re focusing on New York, where the primary comes after a court-appointed special master drew a new congressional map after New York’s top court rejected a previous new map it said was illegally gerrymandered to favor Democrats.

One closely watched race is in the redrawn Congressional District 10 in New York City, which still leans heavily Democrat, the race crowded with several progressives running, including Congressmember Mondaire Jones, who’s endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou; and New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. Also running is Dan Goldman, who served as a federal prosecutor in former President Trump’s first impeachment trial. He opposes court reform and student debt cancellation, Medicare for All, as well as a spotty record regarding support for abortion rights. His race is largely self-funded, with $4 million from his fortune as heir of the Levi Strauss fortune.

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Well, The New York TimesIt was criticized for recommending Dan Goldman, but it didn’t mention that it was making an exception in its usual dislike for self-funded candidates. TimesA.G. Sulzberger, who lives in New York 10, has ties to the Goldmans’ family and did not withdraw from the endorsement process. This led to a rare news conference where Yuh-Line Niou, a progressive candidate, and Mondaire Jones, a rival candidate, spoke out against Dan Goldman.

REP. MONDAIRE JONES:Dan Goldman, a conservative Democrat and a potential buyer of this congressional seat in the United States House of Representatives, is not allowed to do so.

ASSEMBLYMEMBER YUHLINE NIOU: We can’t let a candidate so out of step with this district’s values buy themselves a congressional seat.

AMY GOODMAN:All this is happening as Jerry Nadler, a former long-serving congressman for District 10, is now running against Carolyn Maloney, a long-standing incumbent in Congressional District 12. These are the two leaders of Congress’ Democratic Party.

For more, we’re joined by Alex Sammon, staff writer for The American ProspectFollow closely all of this.

Alex, you wrote “a piece, “New York Times Faces Backlash Over Dan Goldman Endorsement Debacle,” and your latest, “Could Yuh-Line Niou Run on the Working Families Party Line?” Talk about the significance of this New York primary nationally.

ALEX SAMMON: Yeah, it’s a really interesting primary. It’s obviously hotly contested. There are legitimately six candidates who are still within an arm’s race of winning this contest. And it’s one of the most progressive districts in the country, right? So, New York 10, I think, with its latest boundaries, is, I think, D plus 51, so we’re talking about one of the bluest districts in the country. And it’s one that, you know, rarely comes up for grabs. It’s up for grabs and could go in many different directions. But it looks like it may go to the most conservative candidate in the field, which is Dan Goldman, which is something that obviously has raised a lot of eyebrows, and it’s getting a lot of national attention.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, in terms of the race between Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, they both claim to be progressives, but what’s your sense of how — of their records, and especially what will happen in a race where, in the middle of August, very few people are likely to vote?

ALEX SAMMON: Right. This is clearly the case in New York. The fact that the electoral process ends with a primary in August, when turnout will be at absolute rock bottom, shows that it was not a very successful demonstration of democracy.

The race for the New York 12 is intriguing, right? Yes, Jerry Nadler has served in Congress for nearly 30 years. Carolyn Maloney has served in Congress for nearly 30 years. It’s rare to see two very senior Democrats facing off against each other in this way. And I think both — right, both would like to be seen as the progressive in the race. I think the reality is, if you look closely at their records, you’ll see that Jerry Nadler is someone who really does have a long track record of championing progressive policies, of building the progressive base in New York City. And Carolyn Maloney doesn’t really have that. She’s someone who voted against the Iran deal and has kind of a checkered record on some of these progressive priorities.

I think that the most important thing about this race is that Nadler is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He has done some really great work on antitrust legislation, taking on Big Tech, and pushing some of these antimonopoly policies which are a high priority to the party at the moment. And Carolyn Maloney is the head of the House Oversight Committee, which has been a really notoriously weak committee in Congress, and it’s the one that was tasked with obtaining President Trump’s tax returns. And there’s a reason we still don’t have those, or at least Congress hasn’t gotten a hold of them, and that’s because that committee is not very effective. And so, I think if you’re comparing the two of them, you’s say that Nadler has the record to kind of back up his claim, which is that he’s the New York progressive with the history and the track record and, you know, should continue to be the person that New York sends to Congress from this district.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: There’s also another race in the 17th Congressional District that pits a centrist Democrat, Sean Patrick Maloney, against a much more progressive state senator, Alessandra Biaggi. Can you talk about that race and how it’s shaping up?

ALEX SAMMON: Yeah, this is another race, it’s another open seat, thrown into chaos by redistricting. Maloney, the DCCC chair. He’s one of the more conservative members of the Democratic delegation in Congress, certainly one of the most conservative members of the New York delegation. He also holds a high leadership position in that he manages the New York delegation. DCCC, but he’s got a pretty mixed record on climate and the environment. He was involved in a local fossil fuel plant that was opposed by many activists. However, New York state ruled that the plant was in violation of state environmental laws.

Alessandra Bigaggi, a progressive candidate, is Maloney’s opponent. The Democratic Majority of Israel supports Maloney PAC, which is one of the huge money super PACs — it’s affiliated with AIPAC — that is really taking over the Democratic primary process, especially in this cycle. They’ve spent millions of dollars in these races to protect more conservative candidates and ensure that they get elected again. Biaggi is obviously a progressive, has a track record on progressive issues, but is facing a serious uphill battle because Maloney has so much more money, obviously has the incumbency of having — being a current member in Congress and having a leadership position.

And so, it’s a battle to be closely watched, again. It’s one I think progressives would really like to win. Maloney also made many enemies by choosing 17 to run, when he could run in 18, which would be slightly more difficult. There’s slightly more Republicans in 18. But he chose to take the easier route by running in 17, and he bumped Mondaire Jones, who’s a current congressman, out of 17, where he currently resides, and into 10, so set off this chaotic race. And yeah, that’s also a race that will be closely watched but is a little bit of a longshot at this point, I think, for Biaggi.

AMY GOODMAN:You co-authored this article. piece, Alex, “New York Times Faces Backlash Over Dan Goldman Endorsement Debacle,” New York TimesEndorsing three white men from a diverse primary race: Sean Patrick Maloney, Jerry Nadler, and Dan Goldman. Can you talk about Dan Goldman and the person right up against him, Mondaire Jones, the significance of — Yuh-Line Niou, as well — the significance of the TimesIt is not appropriate to reveal the close ties of Goldman’s publisher to the family.

ALEX SAMMON: Yeah, absolutely. This endorsement contains many irregularities. And in the header, you’ll — if you read the endorsement, it says that these three races could decide whether Democrats or Republicans hold the House starting next year. And that’s just not true. All three races are safe Democratic races, and there’s really no way the Republicans are going to win any of those three seats. So it kind of steps off on this kind of — you know, this just inaccurate description of the political climate in New York and these elections.

And the race, in particular, in 10 is fascinating, because — right? — the endorsement, if you read it, speaks glowingly of Mondaire Jones. It would be reasonable to assume that Jones would be co-endorsed if you read it. But it ends up, you know, endorsing — they end up endorsing Goldman. And of the six candidates that I mentioned, Goldman is the only one who isn’t and hasn’t held elected office. He’s the white man in the race. This is a majority-minority district. It’s New York City’s most diverse. And they don’t even mention two of the four, really, of the front-runners even of that six. Yuh-Line Niou and Carlina Rivera don’t even get mentioned in the text of the endorsement. These things are, well, very strange.

And then, to add on top of that, the fact that the publisher didn’t disclose his close ties to — the Sulzberger family and the Goldman family have ties going back decades. That’s not disclosed. He didn’t recuse himself from the endorsement process. The fact that he is a member of the endorsement process Times editorial board, ultimately, in the statement that we were given, said that, you know, the editorial board answers to the public here, and these endorsements —

AMY GOODMAN:We must leave it at that. Alex Sammon, I want to thank you —

ALEX SAMMON: — reflect that.

AMY GOODMAN: — so much for being with us. We’ll link your coverage at The American Prospect.

Julie Crosby wishes you a very happy birthday. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.