Congressional redistricting is a bit like musical chairs, especially in states that are losing House seats. Once the music stops, there’s a mad scramble to find the remaining seats, and sometimes the going gets a bit rough.
Perhaps the most interesting example is in New York State, which is losing one seat. There, redistricting set off a fight between two gay incumbents and between the establishment and progressive wings of the Democratic party.
Taking a page from Republicans in other states, Democrats had drawn a gerrymandered map that heavily favored the party. But a court threw the map out and appointed a neutral party to come up with the map. Suddenly, incumbents were finding themselves potentially battling for the same seat.
Nowhere was that clearer than in the Hudson Valley, where Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney declared his interest in a seat that is made up primarily of the district represented by Rep. Mondaire Jones. Both Maloney and Jones are gay, and Jones was none too happy with Maloney’s sudden interest in what Jones saw as his district.
“Sean Patrick Maloney did not even give me a heads up before he went on Twitter to make that announcement,” Jones said. “And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Sean Patrick Maloney.”
Indeed, Maloney made his announcement on social media an hour after the new map was announced. Moreover, because Maloney is a member of the party leadership, the move felt to Jones, one of the first gay black men elected to Congress, like he was expendable.
Jones has since decided to run in a district in Brooklyn, where he faces tough competition from former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. Should he lose, Jones will end up having only served one term in Congress.
Meanwhile, the anger directed at Maloney has hardly abated. Progressives are infuriated at his decision to run in the new district, even though it’s home to him, his husband, and three children.
State legislator Alessandra Biaggi, herself the granddaughter of a former Congressman, has announced that she will challenge Maloney for the Democratic nomination in the new district. Biaggi had been considering a run in an adjacent district but switched gears to take direct aim at Maloney, whom she branded “a selfish corporate Democrat.”
While Biaggi is riding the anger of progressives–and a lot of rank-and-file Democrats–she has an uphill fight. She doesn’t live in the district. Moreover, Maloney has a lot of cash in his campaign coffers, as well as the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Meanwhile, the district itself may be a tossup, depending on how badly things go for Democrats in the fall. Joe Biden won the district by eight points in 2020–hardly an insurmountable margin for Republicans looking to flip the seat.
One thing that the GOP may have in its favor is Democrats fighting among themselves. Even if the party holds onto the seat, there’s a real risk that Jones will be out of office. That is an outcome that is a big loss for the party well beyond a single district.