Rep. Jerry Nadler prevailed Tuesday in a bitter primary slugfest for the Democratic nomination for New York’s 12th Congressional District seat, defeating fellow veteran lawmaker Carolyn Maloney in one of the most closely watched congressional primaries of the year.
The two House members, both of them committee chairs, were forced into competing against each other for a spot on the November ballot after New York lost a House seat and redrew congressional district lines earlier this year.
With 53% of the vote counted, Mr. Nadler decisively defeated Mrs. Maloney, getting 56% of the vote to her 24%. A third candidate, lawyer Suraj Patel, 38, who worked on both of former President Obama’s campaigns, picked up 18% of the vote in Tuesday’s contest.
The Nadler victory was aided by recent endorsements from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, as well as the New York Times.
Mr. Nadler, 74, and Mrs. Maloney, 76, both served New York City residents for 50 years as lawmakers and officials at different levels of government. Mrs. Maloney represented the east side of Manhattan, while Mr. Nadler’s district encompassed the west side.
Both were elected to Congress in 1992 and climbed the leadership ladder to become the two of the most powerful members in the House.
Mr. Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee, while Mrs. Maloney holds the gavel on the Oversight and Reform Committee.
Their longtime friendship turned into bitter rivalry earlier this year, when a court-drawn congressional map combined parts of each person’s district into one.
Both lawmakers sought another term, triggering a contentious intraparty fight that some have compared to the 1972 primary battle between Democratic Reps. Bella Abzug and William Fitts Ryan.
Mrs. Maloney this week called Mr. Nadler “senile” and unable to complete another term in the House, while Mr. Nadler accused Mrs. Maloney of baseless and desperate accusations.
While both backed major legislation backed by the liberal base, including government-run health-care and the Green New Deal.
As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Nadler took up a gun control package that included a provision to ban semi-automatic rifles, while Mrs. Maloney introduced a bill Friday that would impose a 20% tax on gun manufacturers who produce semi-automatic rifles, defined as “assault weapons,” and magazines with more than 10 rounds.
Until 2020, both lawmakers experienced relatively smooth election cycles although Mrs. Maloney almost lost her seat in 2020 when Mr. Patel came within 4 percentage points of defeating her in the primary.
Mr. Nadler’s 10th District seat and Mrs. Maloney’s 12th District seats were thrown out in May and merged into one seat after redistricting fights in Albany and a successful GOP-backed lawsuit challenged a Democrat-favored congressional map.
The new congressional New York map put forth by a court-appointed special master drew five pairs of incumbents into the same districts, including Mrs. Maloney and Mr. Nadler.
Mrs. Maloney quickly announced her intentions to run in the newly drawn 12th District after Mr. Nadler declared he would also run in the district.
“I live in the 12th (District). Now, I’m going to run in the 12th. It’s 61% Maloney and 39% Nadler,” she told The Washington Times then. “The tip is his District that goes into Borough Park in Brooklyn, an area that he‘s represented for 30 years. And I live in the 12th, so he announced he‘s running against me in my district, so I’m all in.”
Both lawmakers, who refused to consider retirement, began touting many of the same endorsements from liberal activist organizations, leaders, and labor unions.
In addition to winning the endorsements of Mr. Schumer and the New York Times, Mr. Nadler also secured the backing of the Working Families Party and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat.
Mrs. Maloney won a sarcastic endorsement from President Donald Trump, who announced he was also backing Democrat Dan Goldman, a former staffer who helped orchestrate Mr. Trump’s 2019 impeachment trial and is now running in New York’s 10th Congressional District primary.
Mr. Nadler and Mrs. Maloney pulled no punches in their quest to hold on to a congressional seat. Mr. Nadler criticized Mrs. Maloney for her support of the Iraq War, her past comments linking vaccines to autism, and for wearing a burqa on the House floor to highlight issues related to the Taliban.
Mrs. Maloney accused Mr. Nadler of sexism, attempting to push her out of the race, and warned he would soon retire and pick a successor to the seat.
When both lawmakers faced off against one another during a debate, they made national news. Mrs. Maloney said she did not think President Biden would run for reelection, while Mr. Nadler, who helped lead two Trump impeachment efforts, erroneously said he voted to “impeach President Bush twice.”
Mr. Patel accused both incumbents of being out of touch with their constituents and unable to take on the new generation of GOP leadership.
Although an Emerson College poll showed Mrs. Maloney leading Mr. Nadler by 10 points back in May, Mr. Nadler leapfrogged ahead of his Democratic rival in the August poll that showed him 20 points ahead of her.
“In the final week of the primary election, Nadler has solidified his base of support, Patel has gained traction, while Maloney has lost her base of women voters,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, said in a statement.
“Back in May, Maloney led Nadler among women by 15 points, which narrowed to a two-point lead in early August, and now in the final week of the primary, Maloney is losing women to Nadler by 12 points,” he added.