NEW YORK — The televised debate between two longtime Democratic House incumbents and a political outsider vying to represent Manhattan’s newly drawn 12th Congressional District turned to biography Tuesday night, absent a partisan divide.
But one area of notable disagreement was whether President Biden should seek reelection, with the 38-year-old change candidate Suraj Patel embracing the idea and the elderly incumbents of three decades Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler casting doubt.
Maloney and Nadler — who were thrust into a faceoff when district lines were redrawn this year — touted their experience chairing committees, drafting legislation and fighting Republicans in Washington, D.C., while three-time candidate Patel consistently sought to distinguish himself from his two opponents in the Democratic primary.
“1990s Democrats have lost almost every major battle to Mitch McConnell and Republicans. Trumpism is on the rise, even if we defeated Trump,” Patel said in his opening remarks of the 90-minute debate. “To defeat it, we need people with new ideas and energy. Tonight you’re going to hear two distinct arguments from three candidates: Two of them are going to be talking about the past, and I am going to be talking about the future.”
By contrast Maloney, who bested Patel’s last two attempts to unseat her, rolled out her resume in nearly every answer to highlight experience over change in an unpredictable race.
“Change does not come easily, but it will come if you never quit,” Maloney said in her introductory comments. She proceeded to tick off a list of accomplishments, from advocating for improved medical care for first responders to pushing for funding for the Second Avenue Subway extension.
The only woman on stage, she also repeatedly reminded viewers of her history supporting abortion rights, while Nadler noted he was endorsed by NARAL’s political arm.
For his part, Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, appeared to struggle at times to articulate his answers, though he evinced more confidence as the debate went on.
“I endorsed Carolyn, despite her unfortunate record on vaccines, because in a contest between you and her, I frankly thought she was the better candidate,” Nadler said when Patel asked why he supported Maloney in 2020, given her past skepticism about vaccines. “I still think so.”
Nadler and Maloney, who call each other friends despite their current rivalry, at times teamed up against Patel, though the long-time Upper West Side congressman pointed to policy differences he’s had with his House colleague.
He opposed both the U.S. invasion into Iraq and the post-Sept. 11 PATRIOT Act, both of which she supported; he embraced America’s Iran nuclear deal, which she opposed.
But the trio was largely aligned on policy in a primary contest that will all but certainly determine the ultimate winner in the deep-blue district.
All three agreed on the need to tackle climate change, though Patel called for more aggressive action …read more