New York, 2020: A Political Hotbed?

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-Bronx) upset in the 14th District Democratic primary during the last cycle has awakened the New York left.

Feb. 20, 2019 — The state of New York, which generally features mostly non-competitive congressional campaigns in its 27 districts may see a very different 2020. Already, individuals are making preliminary political moves in at least 18 of the 27 CDs, including many budding primary challenges.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-Bronx) upset of then-Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) in the 14th District Democratic primary during the last cycle has awakened the New York left. Now, it appears several other New York City veteran Democrats could face their own 2020 primary challenge.

Even Ocasio-Cortez, who has angered many establishment Democrats with some of her actions and comments, could also see primary competition as rumors of a return match for Crowley, who remains as the Queens Borough Democratic Party chairman, begin to swirl.

In terms of potential Democratic primary challenges, individuals are coming forward to at least begin talking about developing a potential campaign. Those targeted include Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), Carolyn Maloney (D-New York City), Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), and Eliot Engel (D-Bronx). And, Ocasio-Cortez even listed new House Democratic Conference chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) as an incumbent for the Justice Democrats organization, apparently much to the chagrin of the rest of the NY Democratic delegation.

Democratic National Committeeman Robert Zimmerman is “not ruling out” a challenge to Rep. Suozzi in Long Island’s 3rd District, calling the incumbent a “Trump sympathizer.”

Lindsey Boylan, a former economic advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), confirms that she is considering opposing new House Judiciary Committee chairman Nadler in the NYC district that includes Hell’s Kitchen, Lower Manhattan, and Battery Park before dropping down to capture the Kensington and Bensonhurst areas.

Attempting to follow Ocasio-Cortez’s lead, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres confirms that he is analyzing his chances of denying Rep. Serrano re-nomination. The incumbent, who will be 77 at the time of the next election has been in elective office since he first won a state Assembly seat in 1974. He was elected to Congress in a 1990 special election.

Educator Andom Ghebreghiorgis, who says Ocasio-Cortez inspires him, is looking to make a move on Rep. Engel.

But the most serious challenges are likely to be reruns against Reps. Clarke and Maloney. In 2018, Clarke survived in a 53-47 percent winning primary election against community organizer Adem Bunkeddeko, who appears primed to run again. For her part, however, the congresswoman admits she was caught unprepared for the 2018 challenge and has already improved her political operation.

Attorney Suraj Patel spent almost $1.9 million in his campaign to deny 14-term Rep. Maloney (D-New York) re-nomination in the Upper East Side Manhattan district. But, he fell to her by a 60-40 percent margin. He stated recently to the New York Times that he is considering making another attempt.

Republicans are exploring launching general election operations against Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Max Rose (D-Staten Island), Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck), and Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica).

Democrats are again expected to again develop November 2020 challenges to Long Island Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford), and continue targeting Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), Tom Reed (R-Corning), John Katko (R-Syracuse), and indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence).

As the state prepares to implement sweeping new changes to the New York voting laws, including re-establishing a unified primary for federal, state, and local elections – previously, this was the only state in the nation to hold a separate primary for federal elections – it also appears the nation’s fourth largest population entity is entering a competitive political era, something that hasn’t been seen to this degree in several generations.

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