Two NY Primary Victors Announced as Oversight Chair Holds Her Seat

Rep. Carolyn Maloney at a 2019 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. (Image via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Six weeks and one federal ruling after Election Day, New York primaries yielded two big results Wednesday as the Board of Elections certified that a powerful congresswoman fended off a challenge and a gay candidate defeated a homophobic rival.  

As chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, Representative Carolyn Maloney took over the seat left vacant after the October death of civil rights legend and Congressman Elijah Cummings.  

“I’m thrilled the voters of NY-12 have decided to return me to Congress for another term, with a decisive winning margin that clearly reflects the will of the voters,” Maloney said in a late on Tuesday night statement after a federal judge ordered a broader count of absentee ballots. “This has been a historic election, with historic turnout and participation — and a historic wait time for results. We’ve learned many lessons for November and must take a number of actions to protect the safety of our vote in the general election.” 

In the Bronx’s 15th District, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres prevailed over nearly a dozen rivals, including a pro-Trump Democrat with a history of anti-gay and anti-abortion remarks. 

If Torres wins the general election in his bright-blue district, the 32-year-old Afro-Latino would be one of the first openly gay U.S. congressmen of color.  

Mondaire Jones, a 33-year-old lawyer whose 17th District race was called two weeks ago, would be another. 

Before the June elections, many Democrats feared that Torres’ seat would fall into the grasp of Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr., who once characterized the New York City Council as a body “controlled by the homosexual community.” 

Despite his early lead in the polls, however, Diaz ultimately finished third in the race. 

New York City Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr. (left) and Council Speaker Corey Johnson (center) speak at a 2018 press conference with Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, a former taxi driver. (Courthouse News photo/Amanda Ottaway)

Like Jones and Jamaal Bowman, Torres has generated enthusiasm from the progressive wing of Democrats hoping to push the party into a more diverse coalition of the left. The 15th district seat had been occupied by Representative Jose Serrano, a veteran politician whose Parkinson’s diagnosis pulled him out of contention for a seat he had held since 1990. 

In a season of gains by the insurgents, Maloney’s re-election showed that the party’s stalwarts still have staying power.  

Her erstwhile rival Suraj Patel, a lawyer whose campaign boasted of turning down corporate money from political action committees, refused to concede. 

“We are fighting for voters who were disenfranchised through no fault of their own,” Patel tweeted today, well after the Board of Elections called Maloney’s lead insurmountable even accounting for disputed ballots. “Their voices deserve to be heard and a federal court agreed, but rather than simply count the votes, the state appealed the ruling.” 

“We intend to see this fight through on behalf of democracy,” Patel added. 

Expressing support for the federal judge’s ruling, Maloney emphasized they do not affect the contest. 

“While these ballots do not change the result of the election, it is important that every valid vote in our primary be counted,” she said. “I look forward to working with our party to ensure resounding victory in November.” 

Maloney called her rival’s suggestions of voter suppression Trumpian. 

“It is regrettable that my former opponent has become President Trump’s mouthpiece in disparaging mail voting by making unsupported claims of many thousands of ballots being invalidated when the true facts show a smaller number that had no effect on the results,” she said in a statement.

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