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NYC’s Congressional Incumbents Outpacing Progressive Challengers in Fundraising Fights

Congressional Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) advocates for the Adult Survivors Act during a press conference outside Columbia University, May 26, 2021.
Veteran Rep. Carolyn Maloney faces her third consecutive challenge in next year’s midterm primary.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

New York City’s House incumbents are out-fundraising progressive challengers ahead of next year’s primaries and general election in congressional districts that have yet to be drawn.

Three years after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took down a powerful House mainstay, progressive candidates are still trying to oust the city’s old guard. Ocasio-Cortez, who faces no current challenge for her seat representing parts of The Bronx and Queens, took in $1.66 million in the latest quarter — more than any member of the city’s congressional delegation, new Federal Election Commission filings show.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speakis with reporters at her new office in Jackson Heights, March 4, 2019.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading the local fundraising pack.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

While falling far short of AOC numbers, veteran Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke all pulled out early leads in the money race against challengers in their respective congressional districts.

So did freshman Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Trump-supporting Republican in a Staten Island-Brooklyn swing district that’s garnered national attention from campaign donors from both major parties as the crucial midterm elections approach.

Still, reports from the latest fundraising cycle came with a bipartisan state redistricting commission split over drawing new lines by early 2022 — potentially throwing some local races into uncharted territory.

Maloney’s Division Calculus

Maloney, who is facing her third competitive primary in three cycles, raised about $475,000 over the summer as she prepares to take on four Democrats.

Newcomer Rana Abdelhamid, a community organizer with a day job at Google, pulled in a strong $213,000 as she mounts a challenge to the Upper East Side-based lawmaker. Abdelhamid is backed by Justice Democrats, the group that helped Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamaal Bowman beat longtime incumbents.

The 15-term rep Maloney is reportedly encouraging Democrats in the state Legislature to eliminate progressive parts of her district in Brooklyn and Queens.

Abdelhamid told THE CITY that it’s challenging not knowing what the final lines will look like, but said she embraces all parts of the district — including the ones that Maloney purportedly would like to jettison.

“What that tells us is that she really doesn’t want to represent so many of us –– a lot of young people, a lot of the progressives who she sees are not necessarily part of her base and that’s not where we stand in this race,” Abdelhamid said. “We’re excited by every single person.”

Maloney’s campaign team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘Hunger for Leadership’

Meanwhile, Staten Island-based Malliotakis pulled in $552,000 for her eventual general election bid. The freshman rep currently has $1.19 million in her campaign coffers, which puts her far ahead of the two Democratic candidates vying to face her in November 2022.

“Donors to my campaign understand the importance of the GOP preserving the seats we won in 2020, if we are to take back Congress in 2022,” Malliotakis said in a statement.

Then-Congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis poses with Rudy Giuliani after receiving his endorsement, Sept. 14, 2020.
Then-House candidate Nicole Malliotakis poses with Rudy Giuliani after receiving his endorsement, Sept. 14, 2020.
Nicole Malliotakis/Facebook

Brittany Ramos DeBarros, an anti-war Army combat veteran and Democratic Socialists of America member, raised about $110,058 this past quarter.

Ramos DeBarros’ haul puts her well in front of Michael DeCillis, a former cop and teacher, who pulled in just $6,925 in the same period. It also gives the political newcomer more breathing room should one-term former Rep. Max Rose enter the race after losing to Malliotakis last year.

Local political observers said that redistricting will almost certainly help Democrats in the general election — particularly if the southern Brooklyn part of the district is altered to include more progressive pockets of the borough.

Jasi Robinson, a progressive activist and district leader on Staten Island’s North Shore, said that Ramos DeBarros “has been doing everything right” since she entered the race, but added that Rose’s name recognition could spell trouble.

“Brittany’s a viable candidate, but if Max does come into the race we don’t know how that’ll shape out because he has a strong base,” Robinson said.

Brittany Ramos DeBarros, an activist and Army veteran who is also running for Congress in New York’s 11th congressional district, poses for a portrait in New York on April 21, 2021.
Activist and Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros is challenging Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.
Clifford Michel/THE CITY

Ramos DeBarros said that an aggressive ground game in New York’s 11th Congressional District will ultimately make the difference.

“We know from past races that fundraising alone isn’t enough, which is why we’ve already engaged thousands of voters and laid the groundwork for the kind of organizing that transformed the political landscape in places like Georgia,” said Ramos DeBarros.

AOC’s Big Cushion

In New York’s Ninth Congressional District, which encompasses swaths of Central Brooklyn, Clarke pulled in $105,779 and now has $43,253 on hand after spending almost as much as she raised.

Her two Democratic challengers failed to submit their third quarter filings to the FEC. Isiah James — a Democratic Socialist who challenged Clarke in 2018 — had $16,940 in his campaign account as of July 1st.

Congressmember Yvette Clarke
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) hosts a panel discussion on gentrification in May 2019.
John McCarten/New York City Council

Upper West Side-based Nadler took in $175,100 and has $701,543 cash on hand as he prepares to take on three Democratic challengers, though two of the candidates haven’t reported any fundraising. Ashmi Sheth, a progressive Democrat who supports policies like Medicare for All, raised $99,326 this past quarter and has $45,761 in her campaign account.

Queens Reps. Gregory Meeks and Grace Meng both currently don’t have challengers, but are sitting on $1.2 million and $754,423 respectively.

Brooklyn Reps. Nydia Velasquez and Hakeem Jeffries, who have $326,624 and $2.78 million in their campaign coffers, respectively, also aren’t facing any immediate challengers. They raised $16,350 and $881,980, respectively.

Bronx and Manhattan Rep. Adriano Espaillat, who doesn’t have any challengers at the moment, raised $175,650 and has $442,103 in his campaign account.

Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres took in $717,754 and has $2 million in his campaign account. Bowman, his fellow Bronx freshman rep, has $270,798 in his coffers after raising $175,340. Neither is facing any challengers.

Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, has $5.78 million on hand as her national profile grows.

New York is in the midst of its once-a-decade redistricting process in which state and congressional lines are redrawn to reflect the latest Census numbers. After decades of state politicians drawing lines that favored incumbents, New York voters created a bipartisan commission to handle the redistricting process.

But in September, the process broke down as Republicans and Democratic appointees presented two starkly different sets of maps, with each group claiming their version better adheres to state and federal laws.

The bitter split has increased talk that Democratic lawmakers in Albany could invoke a provision in the state constitution to take over the process in early 2022 by rejecting the commission’s lines twice.

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