Election 2024

Out Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney is getting a ride on the karma bus

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloneyy
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloneyy Photo: U.S. Congress

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) must have thought that he’d have a pretty easy shot at re-election. As a leader among Congressional Democrats, the out gay Maloney even picked the district he wanted after New York’s Congressional map was redrawn and the state lost one seat. Between his fundraising prowess and his political clout, victory must have seemed a sure thing.

Of course, there was the way that Maloney went about choosing his district in the Hudson Valley. In a move that Politico described as “bigfooting,” Maloney decided that he didn’t want to run in the district that most closely resembled the one he was representing and chose the one that had elected Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY). (In fairness, Maloney’s house is in the new district.)

Jones, one of the first gay Black members of Congress, was blindsided by Maloney’s decision, which was made on social media one hour after the new map was announced.

“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.”

Recognizing that he had little hope of winning by going up against Maloney, Jones decided to run for a seat in Brooklyn instead. He lost his primary, thus making Jones, once identified as a future party leader, a one-term Congressman.

Maloney easily defeated a primary challenger, which must have made the hard part seem behind him. The district wasn’t very heavily weighted toward Democrats – President Joe Biden won the district by eight points in 2020 – but it shouldn’t have been close.

As it turns out, it’s really close. And Republicans are spending a lot of money to make it closer.

The GOP super PAC aligned with would-be House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is dumping $4 million into ads targeting Maloney. The money cannon aimed at Maloney’s campaign is so significant that the Democrats are, in Politico‘s words, “beginning to mount a rescue mission” to ensure that Maloney withstands the onslaught.

Maloney has already spent $2 million on broadcast ads. By contrast, his GOP opponent, state legislator Michael Lawler, has spent about $380,000.

Forcing Maloney to scramble is particularly delightful for Republicans since Maloney is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the body that is responsible for getting party members elected. Still, Republicans wouldn’t be spending money just to tweak Maloney. They obviously think it can make a difference in the campaign.

For his part, Maloney is projecting an air of confidence. “Republicans have spent millions against me, and their numbers still say MAGA Mike Lawler is losing,” the congressman said in a statement. (Lawler does have the endorsement of Log Cabin Republicans.)

Despite the ill will that Maloney generated with the way he squashed Jones’ prospects, Democrats have little option but to rally behind Maloney. So far, an outside PAC had spent $140,000 on ads to help Maloney in his fight against Lawler. It will have to raise a lot more to make up for the sum the Republicans are willing to spend.

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