Note: I wrote this when I was thinking of running again. Ultimately, I chose not to run in the 2019-2020 cycle. Please use all of this as an inspiration to either run or recruit a progressive Dem to Primary Maloney and win power in CD 12.
DISTRICT 12: HOW WE WIN
NYC is a powerful, great, creative place, full of positive energy, humane values, and game-changing creativity. In NYC’s 12th District, we need someone to represent that energy, for change, for justice, for the People.
By Sander Hicks
After a young challenger almost beat Rep. Carolyn Maloney in last Spring’s 2018 Democratic Primary, the 12th District’s “safe seat” is very winnable, by a real progressive inside the Democratic Party.
I also ran in this race, but was prevented from gaining ballot access. First, by the young challenger, the real estate executive, Suraj Patel. In person, I found Patel to be pleasant, but his politics were a bit shallow. I was shocked when he won 41% of the vote. We were both right. In Congressional District 12, change is in the air. As the entire country swings to the left, Rep. Maloney’s days are numbered.
Yes, it was frustrating to lose those court battles and get knocked off the ballot. But I’m grateful for what I learned. With a little wisdom under my belt, I can lay out a new strategy for a progressive to win this seat in the US Congress, in 2020.
AOC and Sander in DC, November 2017, American University, Brand New Congress conference.
2017 was the year of bright new possibilities: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) soundly beat the corporate Democrat Joe Crowley, in a stunning upset. She is a new friend, and I was inspired by her fiery speech at Brand New Congress conference in DC, in 2017. I was in touch with her campaign throughout my own.
AOC and I are both members of the Democratic Socialists of America. I am proud to be in DSA. It’s one well-organized group that stands up to the dominance of corporate America. We stand for the people, against the lack of healthcare, against war and propaganda and capitalist frat boy rape culture. In my local branch, the North Brooklyn DSA, I have comradely friends who get excited when I talk about my plans to convert my corporation into a worker cooperative. I get great ideas about the history and the future of affordable housing, and how to not to sacrifice our whole city to Wall Street and defense contractor Amazon.
The voters wants new blood. Just look at the map of the District I ran in.
This Congressional District 12 is eager for someone new. They are going to have to be special. Quick. Clear. A catalyst. Someone with integrity, and intensity. Just like the City we love.
Rep. Maloney is out of touch, and hasn’t really done anything for the people in a long time. She amassed a personal fortune ($29 million) but has never initiated any great progressive legislation. Her main campaign claim was that she helped pitch in to build the 2nd Ave Subway. Her brochures show her in a shiny hard-hat, but it seems so fake, when the 2nd Ave Subway line was not initiated by her office.
In the Democratic Primary in 2010, Maloney was challenged by a well-funded opponent, Reshma Saujani, a 34-year-old Indian-American hedge fund lawyer, who had ties to President Barack Obama. But Maloney slaughtered her, winning with 62-percentage point margin. Maloney took home 81% of the vote compared to Saujani's 19%. But one thing Saujani got right-on, in her one debate with Maloney, she pointed out that Maloney does little, and takes credit for legislation created by others. And more people are realizing this.
In 2016, Maloney’s landslide of a 62 point margin thinned to a 17 point narrow victory against Patel, just six years later. That means Maloney’s “landslide” margin in 2010 lost 72% of its strength. Something is happening here.
Maybe that’s because Maloney’s personal politics are a train wreck. Look at her vote for the Iraq War. Look at her one-sided support for Israel, ignoring the human rights of the Palestinians. Look at her support for the Neo-Con run up to war with Iran. She opposed Obama’s great foreign policy achievement: the Iran Nuclear Deal. Maloney is so in the pocket of Trump and Netanyahu’s right-wing forces, she co-sponsored H.R. 1697, the failed legislation which would make it a crime to support BDS. “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” is the movement to censure Israel and boycott it for human rights violations against the stateless Palestinian People. Maloney even dressed up in a burka and urged the USA to attack Afghanistan after 9/11, even though Afghanistan didn’t plan the 9/11 attack with the 15 Saudi 9/11 hijackers. Her costume was a slap against Islam. She never apologized.
By the way, did you know that Statehood for the Palestinians is a mainstream plank of the Democratic Platform? Now you do. And more Democrats need to know that. This is not to bash Israel, and I reject hate of any kind. Our mission is to be people of peace.
After 26 long years in power, amassing personal wealth (like Trump) and voting for war (worse than Trump), Rep. Carolyn Maloney almost lost it all, to a Tinder-happy, cat-fishing, baby-faced millionaire hotel magnate. Look at that color map again - it clearly breaks it down: Maloney lost hard to Patel in North Brooklyn. It was a 50/50 split in Queens. Her strong support is only among the upper crust of the Upper East Side, and Midtown.
You can see there’s blood in the water. It will be a much bigger race this time. Maloney is like Trump: her very existence inspires progressives to enter the race against her. And just like in the current Presidential contest, moderates will have to bow out, seeing no chance to win. The 2020 race for Congress’ 12th District will be a wonderfully chaotic, disruptive, loud, race with several other progressive candidates. Let’s bring it on. It’s only winnable for progressives, who represent the people, and the populist roots of Manhattan, Queens, North Brooklyn, and the Lower East Side.
I talked to a lot of voters on the streets doing two rounds of petitioning. The overwhelming majority of the people that I spoke with strongly wanted Maloney replaced. I kept hearing: Maloney is unresponsive, and tone-deaf, and her staff are even worse.
A progressive campaign with a strategy for victory could be built around something universal- “Economics for the People.” We need Federal Capital Programs to teach working-class and middle-class people how to start and run worker-owned cooperative businesses, in the public interest. These are ideas that even centrist Dems and some Republicans could be wooed into supporting, as they will create jobs, and take some of the best aspects of small-business creation.
A progressive in CD 12 would make Affordable Housing a big focus of the campaign. Maloney was flogging the failed Amazon deal, hardcore. But instead of $3 billion in corporate welfare for Amazon why don’t we create a “Green Jobs” zone in the Anabelle Basin area that was going to be given to Amazon’s HQ2? Instead of “Hudson Yards” for the mega-wealthy, how about we get the unions, union banks, and government to work together again to create mixed affordable housing in NYC? It has been done, before, and it has worked.
We need Public Banking, on a national level, rolled out through the US Postal Service. A truly progressive vision would see capital not as the enemy of the people, when it is placed in the people’s hands. A real leader in Congress would create a coalition, with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to create a “Social Ventures Creation Capital Fund” to create green, worker-owned ventures in the public interest.
The best night of my campaign was the night I beat Suraj Patel in a debate. Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan provided a forum for me to meet, and informally debate Patel. I won, because I articulated a smart anti-war position on Syria, and Iran. Patel mouthed the unsubstantiated cliches about Assad. Later that night, PALM voted that I won the debate, but stopped short of endorsing me.
Think ahead to 2020. Think of the massive waves of resistance, and popular engagement, when 20 progressives run against Trump in the Presidential race. In CD 12, just as many could run against the Trump-like incumbent. But who will win? I say it’s the candidate who can clearly set out some real plans for New Yorkers, plans that directly improve their quality of life: Affordable housing, fixing the subway, helping create public banking institutions, giving people a hand up, helping people create cooperatives, and green energy companies, and all of the things that we need to create to fix our world.
In 2019, “everything is possible.” Don’t say “Rep. Carolyn Maloney is too rich, too entrenched, too establishment to be unseated.” Just look at the map. It’s full of people in this district who want real change.
Let me close with the words of my personal hero, Robert F. Kennedy:
“A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.”