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Queens Chronicle

Patel jumps into 5-way NY-12 race

He lost to Maloney last year; she now faces a total of four 2020 primary foes

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 10:30 am

Suraj Patel is giving New York’s 12th Congressional District another go.

The East Village-based activist and attorney announced Wednesday that he’s running in the June 2020 Democratic primary contest for Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) seat, for which he ran last year. The district includes Manhattan’s East Side, Long Island City and parts of Astoria and Sunnyside in Queens, and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

Patel, a 35-year-old son of Indian immigrants, won 40 percent of the vote against the 26-year-incumbent last year. The 2020 contest won’t just be him and Maloney, though. In addition to the congresswoman, activist and comedian Lauren Ashcraft of Long Island City is running, as are two candidates from Manhattan: lawyer and former legislative staffer Erica Vladimer and Democratic Socialists of America activist Peter Harrison.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary is virtually assured general election victory. Hillary Clinton in 2016 won 83 percent of the vote in the 12th Congressional District, which the Cook Political Index ranks as a D+31.

Patel announced his 2020 candidacy with videos in English, Spanish and Gujarati that were shot around the district, publishing the clips on social media.

“Far too many people on both sides of the East River are shut out of education and economic opportunity,” he said in one of them. “We deserve representation with vision.”

Patel disagreed with the incumbent’s 2015 vote against the Obama administration’s deal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and her 2006 vote in favor of the federal government building a fence along the Mexican border.

Since last year’s election, he’s been practicing law, working with nonprofit groups and teaching as an adjunct professor at the New York University Stern School of Business.

Patel doesn’t sound discouraged by the NY-12 election competition.

“Let me be frank,” he said. “I think that the other candidates in this race are excellent progressives. And I think the more eyeballs on Maloney’s record, the better.”

While many would say that a crowded field of challengers would favor the incumbent, Patel said the idea doesn’t apply to his contest.

“I don’t think conventional wisdom is correct here,” he said. “A lot has changed since last year.”

Like other NY-12 challengers, the candidate is refusing to accept corporate PAC money, which Maloney has taken in the past.

St. John’s University political science professor Brian Browne said the fact that it’s so packed will likely make it very difficult for Patel to pull it off.

“Historically, in a primary, the name recognition favors the incumbent and in this case, there are five in it,” he said in an interview. Still, Browne noted that Maloney would “have to work” to secure her re-election.

Maloney isn’t the only House representative for Queens facing multiple Democratic challenges. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens) is running for re-election next year against two primary foes: Great Neck, LI-based attorney and Sept. 11 hero Michael Weinstock and health and wellness consultant Melanie D’Arrigo.

More broadly, across New York City, there has been a remarkably high number of challengers to House incumbents, a phenomenon that many have said is at least partially the result of now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-Queens, Bronx) unseating of former Rep. Joe Crowley last year.

In Queens, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) is running for re-election against primary foe Mel Gagarin, a DSA member. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau), the chairman of the borough Democratic Organization, is doing the same against Shaniyat Chowdhury, who is also an activist in the same group.

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