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  • Writer's pictureBen Yee

Recommendations for the NY Congressional Primaries 2018

It's Congressional Primary Day! Please go vote! Find your polling location.

Remember when you were all jealous of California? Now it's your shot. On this happiest of occasions, two things:

1. We still have TWO more elections this year. Local Primaries (Sept 13) and Midterm Elections (Nov 6). VOTE TODAY + MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR THE OTHER ELECTIONS.

2. Many people have asked me for guidance in the Congressional Primaries. Below are my answers.

I'm only covering the districts in NYC + Nassau. Sorry, there are just too many candidates this year to consider every race in depth; even for me.

Even then, some of these are more distillations of what the races represent than recommendations. I hope this helps!

NY-2: Nassau

Recommendation: Liuba Grechen Shirley

Why: I've known Liuba for a long time and I was an early supporter. She's the only candidate for whom I've organized my own fundraiser. At that fundraiser I said she satisfied my most important test: I would trust her with power. She is grassroots, she is not above others, she is not anointed, she is hard working and she is smart.

Whether Liuba wins or loses, she will have already changed campaign finance laws for the better. She deserves to win so she can change all our laws for the better.

NY-9: Brooklyn

Recommendation by Proxy: Adem Bunkeddeko

Why: Everyone I trust and the NY Times say Adem Bunkeddeko. I've met him twice and he's a cool guy who seems to be running for the right reasons. However, I haven not followed this race as closely as others. My recommendation is based largely on what I've heard. That said, those people are good and aligned with what I believe.

NY-11: Staten Island and South Brooklyn

Recommendation: Reader's Choice

Why: Honestly, vote your conscience. If Michael Grimm wins the Primary we're going to need a seriously good Democrat to take him on. So whoever moves you, I mean really makes you believe and want to vote - that's who you should vote for because that's who we need. This is uncharted territory and Democrats have failed to pick up this seat for years. There's no substitute for the real thing. Well...maybe money. Just kidding, whoever wins the primary will get the money they need.

If you really don't know, the candidates I know best in the race are Max Rose (favored) and Omar Vaid. Check them both out and go with who speaks to you.

Vote your heart out SI and South BK.

NY-12: East Side and Queens

Recommendation: Carolyn Maloney

Why: This is my district, so it gets my longest answer...

If you want change, is Patel the right choice? If Maloney isn't bad should she be replaced? Ultimately, for me, there's not enough evidence to hand an unknown quantity a safe seat he could reasonably keep for life. And since Maloney isn't that bad, we can wait for Patel to prove himself or for someone who has to run.

Incumbents tend to remain in office for decades. It's perhaps a problem that Carolyn Maloney has kept things in stasis for so long, but we can't fix that here. While she's been in office for decades, if Suraj Patel wins he could be there for the rest of his life, too. I don't feel comfortable giving someone who has so little track record of engagement in the community or public service that gift. We don't know what sort of guy Patel is, and if we want to know we should see what he does when he loses. Congressional elections will come again very soon.

Conversely, Maloney is unlikely to stay for significantly longer. Maloney is 72. When I say that, people often tell me she could be around for another 10 or 20 years. That's true! But I think most people could also easily imagine her retiring in four or eight years.

Insofar as the specific merits, I do not have strong feelings against Patel on issues. He seems to be a Democrat. Maloney is also basically a solid Democratic vote in Congress. Among everyone who I trust, though, the feeling is either "both suck" or "Maloney is good". So, even looking beyond myself, the balance seems to put Maloney ahead or suggest choosing the person likely to be replaced soonest. Delving into their records and resumes is not particularly enlightening because Patel has no record in government which makes comparison difficult.

What's more, there are at least three significantly better and more tested successors in the district. The obvious retort to this is "they should have run." I agree, but with Maloney so close to retirement the temptation to wait it out is strong. The reality is that, under our system, anyone who's built up a legitimate practice of public service has too much to lose by losing to an incumbent. Again, we can't fix this pitfall in our institutions here, but I would like to push hard for one of them take this as writing on the wall.

NY-14: Queens and The Bronx

Recommendation: Reader's Choice

Why: As with 9 and 11, I haven no personal connection with a candidate nor is this my district. But please feel free to consider the following:

If the idea of a New Yorker as Speaker of the House excites you, vote for incumbent Joe Crowley. He is currently the third most powerful Democrat in Congress and a likely candidate to replace Speaker Pelosi. If that happens, it ostensibly means beacoup Federal dollars for NY if Democrats retake Congress. This will also solidify a clear political hierarchy in NYC which, depending on who you are, could be attractive.

However, if the idea of the powerful "Queens machine" getting stronger and extending its influence to other boroughs (it already has an alliance with the Bronx machine and is influencing Manhattan), or the fact that Crowley has never really faced the electorate (Crowley got his seat in Congress when his predecessor vacated his spot on the ballot, giving it to Crowley in an uncontested election - hence the "Queens machine") worries you, vote for his fist Primary challenger ever, Alexandra Ocasio.

Joe Crowley is favored to win and is arguably the most powerful person in NYC already. Alexandra Ocasio promises a different era of politics should she win and is a favorite among the insurgent candidates having been endorsed by Cynthia Nixon and organizations like True Blue, Our Revolution and NYPAN.

Don't see your district? Feel free to ask me for my gut feeling by emailing

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