I get a lot of political emails. It seems that I am on everybody’s mailing list. But none more than from 36-year-old Suraj Patel. If the name rings a bell it is because he ran against Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic Party Primary two years ago and did fairly well, winning about 40% of the vote. Undaunted by his defeat, he is challenging Maloney again. In truth, he never really stopped running.
This year the Primary is in June… just four months away. But who is Mr. Patel? And what makes him run? The trend in the Democratic Party starting with Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, now referred to as “AOC” by tabloid newspapers, is for young persons in a big hurry to run for high office. Two years ago, the then-unknown 20-something Alexandra Ocasio Cortez toppled Congressman Joe Crowley, who was an influential veteran of the House of Representatives for 20 years after having served in the State Assembly for over a decade. She has since gone on to become a progressive political rock star and is quoted in the press almost as much as President Trump.
But back to Patel. Like AOC, and actually like Trump, he runs for office having never served a day in his life in government. So clearly one can be elected to an important federal office without first having learned about government from the inside. Some people actually think that is a virtue. And like Donald Trump, Mr. Patel has a lot of experience operating hotels and has made a considerable amount of money. But why is he running against Carolyn Maloney, who is now a 28-year member of Congress and at the height of her influence, having been named Chair of the important Committee on Oversight? He says he has a lot of policy disagreements with Maloney but for the most part they seem to be nuanced and not notable.
District 12 congressional candidate and Upper East Side resident Erica Vladimer is ending her bid to replace incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Vladimer announced the end of her campaign in an emailed statement to supporters last Friday.
Vladimer said that she made the decision after difficulties fundraising and also due to a struggle with health issues, partially due to a lack of insurance since she’s been campaigning.
“Knowing myself personally, and knowing that anything I chose to do, I want to do my best, I realized that I couldn’t do that and didn’t feel comfortable with that,” she said of the overall decision.
Vladimer said that for a newcomer like herself, it was difficult to get momentum against Maloney, who already has a fundraising base as an incumbent congresswoman.
District 12 Congressional candidate Peter Harrison (standing, center) announced his transit plan at East 14th Street and First Avenue this past Tuesday with (from left to right) Brooklyn City Council candidate Victoria Cambranes and activists Dustin Jones and Dannelly Rodriguez. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuy Town resident and Congressional candidate Peter Harrison announced his campaign to make public transit free and increase accessibility throughout the system on Tuesday morning at the corner of First Avenue and East 14th Street.
Harrison’s proposal, the “Freedom of Movement in America Plan,” calls on the federal government to spend $1.7 trillion on public transportation over the next 10 years. One component of the plan is to make transit completely fare-free and provide $17 billion in federal funding to cover fare revenue, in addition to providing $9 billion in funding for paratransit in order to achieve 100% accessibility for public transit.
Another aspect of the proposal would fund the Federal Railroad Administration in order to invest $150 billion in Amtrak, $150 billion into the development of high-speed rail and update rolling stock to decarbonized, emission-free systems within 12 years at a cost of $500 million a year.
Harrison, a Democratic Socialist who is challenging incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in District 12, said that his plan isn’t intended to punish car-owners, but aims to make transportation more accessible for everyone, especially residents who can’t afford cars.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club endorsed Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in her re-election bid over her four Democratic challengers. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club voted to endorse Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for re-election after a forum featuring the current representative and four of her Democratic opponents on Tuesday evening at the New York New Church on East 35th Street.
Stuy Town resident Peter Harrison, Upper East Side resident Erica Vladimer, Long Island City resident Lauren Ashcraft and Lower East Side resident Suraj Patel made their case in their campaigns against the longtime incumbent at the event co-organized by the Tilden Democrats, Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, Four Freedoms, Coalition of a District Alternative (CODA), East River Democratic Club and Lexington Democrats. Tilden previously endorsed Maloney for re-election in November.
Members of the various Democratic clubs that were in attendance submitted questions for each of the candidates, focusing on topics such as housing, transportation, education and infrastructure. ERDC District Leader Mike Corbett lead the forum last Tuesday.
All of the candidates said that they are supportive of protecting and expanding affordable housing as well as protecting public housing, although Congresswoman Maloney was the only candidate who specified where she believes the district needs more affordable housing.
Stuy Town resident Peter Harrison (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuyvesant Town resident Peter Harrison is the latest candidate to challenge Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for her seat in the 12th District, with a campaign centered on the housing crisis.
“I’m a housing person, both as an activist and as a policy person,” he said. “And there’s a moment right now in this district to talk about housing as this lens for other major, major issues. The narrative of the campaign really is centered on housing as this focal point for talking about economic justice, climate justice and racial justice.”
Harrison moved in Stuy Town as a market-rate tenant in 2009 with some friends and less than a year later, they received a letter saying that they were members of the Roberts class-action lawsuit. That prompted him to get involved with the STPCV Tenants Association.
“There was an amazing opportunity to learn how to organize tenants because it was a ton of effort, and a huge capacity left for the TA,” he said. “So I really got thrown in, became a building captain and was knocking on hundreds and hundreds of doors, learning a lot about it.”
Attorney Erica Vladimer still has a long way to go before the Congressional Primary next June, but she’s ready to challenge longtime Congressmember Carolyn Maloney in the election for the District 12 seat after announcing her candidacy this past June. The district covers the East Side of Manhattan, including the East Village, parts of Midtown and the Upper East Side, as well as Long Island City and Astoria in Queens and Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
“I never fully intended to run for office, especially at this age, but if there’s ever been a time where a new generation needs to bring a new voice to all levels of government, this is it,” Vladimer said of her campaign. “And it gutturally feels right.”
Vladimer, 32, filed her paperwork to run on June 3 but was also in the news at the beginning of last year after she accused State Senator Jeff Klein of forcibly kissing her outside a bar in Albany while she was a member of his staff. She left his office in 2015 and said that she thought she had put it behind her, but felt differently when she started hearing about the accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.
“I will forever carry that with me,” she said of the incident. “Other people who were harassed, I feel that I played some role in it because I didn’t speak out.”
While less of a high-profile fight than that of Cuomo and Nixon, locally the hot seat is occupied by Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, who is running against Suraj Patel, a hospitality executive and NYU professor of business ethics who is hoping to ride the “blue wave” against the Trump administration (as well as the former breakaway group of State Senate Democrats) to victory.
This so-called blue wave has been an interesting phenomenon. It has helped Nixon, an actress who has never held office, gain credibility so far in her attempts to argue Cuomo is not a true Democrat. However, her attempt to dethrone an incumbent is still an uphill one as it is also for Patel, despite his being able to outraise Maloney in recent months.
The race has not been without its controversies. As Town & Village previously reported, Patel sued two other candidates over invalid petitions and they’ve since been knocked off the ballot. Additionally, other published reports have shown discrepancies over what has been Patel’s primary residence and where he’s voted in recent years.
Town & Village interviewed Patel, an East Villager who grew up in Indiana with parents who emigrated from India, about his campaign, in March. He has some relevant political experience, having worked on both campaigns for former President Obama and having worked pro bono as an attorney for immigrants stranded at JFK last year during a travel ban. Patel would actually like to defund ICE and with immigration detention centers where families are being separated indefinitely currently making headlines, the idea doesn’t just come off as the rantings of a far-left fringe candidate. (This week, Maloney signed into legislation that would end this despicable and un-American policy and has been protesting the separations.)
Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, pictured outside her home on the Upper East Side (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
While hardly an open seat, the race for candidates hoping to represent the 12th Congressional District (most of Manhattan’s East Side as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens) is proving to be a competitive one. While the Democrat primary on June 26 has just two candidates, the only reason there are just two names on the ballot is that one of them, Suraj Patel, sued successfully against another candidate, Sander Hicks, claiming he didn’t have enough valid signatures. He did the same to an additional candidate, Peter Lindner, though he’d already been booted off the ballot by the Board of Elections. This leaves Patel, a hospitality executive who also worked on both election campaigns for the Obama administration, and Carolyn Maloney, the 25-year incumbent.
On this, Maloney, while interviewed at her home on the Upper East Side last week, mused, “For someone who said he wants more participation, I’m mystified why he’s throwing his opponent off the ballot.”
As for Maloney, perhaps in part due to her history of clobbering challengers at the polls, she has managed to rack up just about every endorsement there is to be had from elected officials, unions, women’s organizations and local clubs. She’s also gotten the nod from Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem.
Eliot Rabin at his Upper East Side shop for women (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
In June, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney will face off against fellow Democrat Suraj Patel, but already another opponent has joined the race, this one a Republican who’s gotten the backing of Manhattan GOP.
That candidate, who’s just getting started petitioning and organizing his campaign, is Eliot Rabin, also known to some as Peter Elliot, which is his retail business on the Upper East Side.
Rabin, who’s run upscale clothing boutiques in the neighborhood since the 1970s and worked in the fashion industry in other capacities even longer, was motivated to run for office after the latest high school shooting massacre.
“After Florida, I exploded,” he said, while sitting for an interview at his women’s boutique on Madison Avenue and 81st Street. “There’s a lack of moral courage in our government.”
Congressional candidate Suraj Patel (second to left) has successfully sued two others who’d hoped to run in the primary against Carolyn Maloney, Sander Hicks and Peter Lindner. Both are now off the ballot although Lindner was already knocked off by the Board of Elections. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
Patel had actually filed two lawsuits against two would-be candidates, Sander Hicks and Peter Lindner, alleging they didn’t have enough valid signatures on their petitions. As it turned out, the court agreed, with Judge Edgar G. Walker of the Kings Supreme Court in Brooklyn noting Hicks had only 1,140 valid signatures, which was 110 fewer than he needed. After the suit was filed last month, Hicks told Town & Village that he had gotten nearly 2,100 signatures and was confident this was more than enough.
Technically, the minimum for congressional candidates is only 1,250 but candidates know they have to get more if they expect to beat the inevitable challenges from opponents or their supporters. Signatures can be invalidated for a number of reasons, including if the person signing doesn’t live in the district or if that same person has previously signed another candidate’s petition.
The congressional seat representing New York’s 12th District that’s been held by Carolyn Maloney for a quarter century now has truly proven to be the hot seat. In a June primary, she is facing two candidates: Suraj Patel, a former employee of the Obama administration who owns a dozen motels with his family and other partners, and Sander Hicks, a small business owner and former independent publisher. Then there’s Peter Lindner, a computer programmer who ran against Maloney in 2016 and was hoping to do so again.
However, on April 24, Patel filed lawsuits against Lindner and Hicks, which according to a spokesperson for Patel, is charging insufficient and invalid petitions.
In the case of Lindner, Patel’s rep, Lis Smith, added, “The Lindner campaign failed to file the required number of signatures to be on the ballot this June 26. Unfortunately, the Board of Elections won’t enforce its own rules unless another candidate demands it, which we have. We look forward to a spirited election where Democrats have a real choice for Congress for the first time in a decade.”
Democratic congressional candidates hoping to replace incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney squared off in a debate at the end of March sans the Congresswoman herself, who was originally confirmed for the event but ultimately told the organizers there was a conflict in her schedule.
The two candidates who did appear, Sander Hicks and Suraj Patel, debated at a monthly meeting for the Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan at the Seafarer’s International House at the end of March. Arthur Schwartz, chair of the organization, moderated the discussion and geared some of the talking points to broader, national issues for a change of pace because the group generally only has a chance to discuss local politics, with the candidates discussing the direction of the Democratic Party as well as healthcare, voter participation and advocating for the disabled.
Supporters of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are a substantial contingent of the members of NYPAN, with one debate attendee pointing out her tattoo of the Vermont Senator, and Schwartz put emphasis on this early in the debate, asking if the candidates had considered how these progressive voters would be represented in the Democratic National Committee.
In the race for the Congressional seat occupied by Carolyn Maloney, one of two of her Democrat challengers believes there’s a lot she’s wrong about.
Sander Hicks, a political activist who runs a carpentry businesses based in Maspeth, openly admits to being on the offensive. This is after having been advised by supporters, including his father Norman Hicks, a former World Bank economist, to “stop being so nice,” he explained.
Additionally, Hicks, 47, said, although he insisted he is trying to run a positive campaign based on “respect for all religions” (he identifies as Quaker and interfaith) he has also found Maloney to be unresponsive to concerns from constituents like himself.
Maloney, he noted, never directly responded when he called her office about long-classified documents from a Congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that were finally released in 2016, known as the “28 pages.” Instead, Hicks said, he was passed around from one office employee to the next until, finally a year later, he got a form letter response. However, it wasn’t even on the issue he’d brought up, but about Maloney’s Zadroga Act for 9/11 responder healthcare.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who’s easily held her seat for 25 years, will be facing two challengers in the June primary. One of them is Suraj Patel, an East Village resident and entrepreneur, who insists that it’s not the incumbent he’s challenging, but the status quo.
“People say competition is great for democracy, but technically it’s required for it to have any meaning,” he told Town & Village this week. “A lot of people ask, ‘Why are you challenging an incumbent?’ I’m challenging a party. I couldn’t wait my turn anymore.”
Patel, who’s also an attorney (though he doesn’t practice much), has some experience in politics, having worked as an advance associate for former President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012. These days, he’s an assistant adjunct professor of business ethics at New York University’s Stern Business School and also hosts a lecture series on voting rights called “Talks on Law.” He also owns, with his family, Sun Group, a company that owns motel franchises around the country. At this time, he said there are 12 motels operated by the hospitality group, some of them with partners, though none are in New York City.
Last week, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a 23-year Democrat incumbent, officially announced that she was running for reelection.
In a press release, she touted her experience fighting for transportation improvements as well as women and children’s rights.
Meanwhile, a computer programmer and resident of Union Square has entered the race against her.
Peter Lindner, a 66-year-old Democrat, said he’s never been involved in politics, either through political clubs or working for a politician. But he came to be inspired to run one day when he felt unsatisfied with a response he got from Maloney’s office when he went there with a constituent complaint.
The issue was over what he believes was corrupt behavior by another official that he wanted investigated. But after providing the congresswoman with documentation that argued his case, he said he was told by a staffer to stop calling, and that police would be called if he didn’t.
A spokesperson for Maloney declined to comment on Lindner’s claims.