Volume 80, Number 15 | September 9 - 15, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Maloney for Congress
In the only major race for a Downtown Manhattan seat this primary season, longtime incumbent Carolyn Maloney is facing a spirited challenge from political newcomer Reshma Saujani in the 14th Congressional District. (See bottom of this page for the recent WWRL debate.)
The East Side district stretches from the 90’s down through the middle of the East Village, hooks into part of the Lower East Side, and also takes in Roosevelt Island, Long Island City and Astoria.
Maloney has represented the district 18 years and, since being elected, hasn’t faced a primary challenge.
Saujani, 34, is a bright, articulate candidate with a compelling personal story. The daughter of East Indian immigrants who fled Idi Amin’s Uganda, she hopes to be the first candidate of East Indian descent to win election to Congress.
She readily admits, however, that she and Maloney, 64, agree on “95 percent” of the issues. In fact, she told us of Maloney, “I think she has a good record.” One of Saujani’s main arguments for her election, though, is her claim that — as part of a new generation in politics — she would bring fresh energy to the seat. If elected, she said, she would focus on job creation in fields like biotech and renewable energy, and would work to create a public-private “national innovation fund” to give seed money to help jumpstart job development in these fields.
Saujani has some good ideas. And she could very well have a bright political future. But, simply put, we haven’t seen enough of her in the community, and we just don’t know enough about her. Up till now, she’s mainly worked as a hedge-fund attorney on Wall St., most recently at Fortress, which managed one of the firms that was involved in the recent loan default on Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Basically, Saujani needs to increase her presence in the community’s civic life. She could join the local community board. Also, she might consider trying for a lower seat first, such as in the City Council or state Legislature.
Maloney, for the most part, has been an able representative in her years in office. She’s been a staunch advocate for women’s rights on important issues, such as getting mammograms covered by health insurance.
After her years of service, Maloney carries seniority in Congress. When she talks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she does so as a veteran congressmember with clout. Saujani, obviously, would be starting at square one.
Impressively, Maloney recently scored a coup for consumers with her credit card reform law. It wasn’t an easy win, and the bill faced intense opposition from the financial-services industry.
On the other hand, Saujani has made campaign statements to the effect that a hand, not a fist, must be offered to Wall St. — leading Maloney and others to paint her as “Wall St.’s candidate.” Saujani also has received significantly more campaign contributions than Maloney from Wall St., though says it’s only natural because she worked there.
We were disappointed, however, that Maloney, by all appearances, ducked Saujani’s challenge to a TV debate. Instead, she agreed to a debate on WWRL radio on Tuesday, meaning relatively fewer people heard the candidates.
All in all, Maloney’s record on issues that matter has been, and continues to be, strong. She’s been a vocal advocate for tenants, notably at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where she supported the tenants’ lawsuit. As well as on women’s issues, she’s always been there for the L.G.B.T. community and its struggle for equality.
In the end, there’s no compelling argument why Maloney shouldn’t get another term. And Saujani hasn’t made a convincing enough case for why, at this point, she’s the candidate to replace her.