Sean Patrick Maloney, an out gay attorney, has captured the Democratic nomination for the 18th District US House seat in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley.
Maloney, who served for three years on the White House staff during the Clinton administration and was first deputy secretary for Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson from 2007 to 2009, won just under half the votes in a five-candidate primary on June 26.
Maloney, who turns 46 in July, will now face freshman incumbent Republican Nan Hayworth, who beat two-term Democratic Congressman John Hall in 2010. If elected, he would become the first out gay or lesbian member of Congress from New York and only the sixth in US history.
“Sean has proven he knows how to get things done in Washington,” said Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a nationwide group that works to elect out candidates to office. “He’s deeply experienced and absolutely committed to finding ways to put New Yorkers and all Americans back to work. As an openly gay dad, he’ll also be an authentic voice for LGBT families across the country. We’re extremely pleased about tonight’s big win.”
The Victory Fund, several months ago, endorsed Maloney in a contest that included another out gay candidate, Matt Alexander, the mayor of Wappingers Falls, a Dutchess County municipality of 5,000. Alexander finished third, with about 12 percent of the vote.
The runner-up was Dr. Richard Becker, a cardiologist from Cortlandt in Westchester County, who won about a third of the vote.
The unusual June primary drew less than 15,000 Democratic voters. In 2010, Hayworth won in a race where nearly 210,000 ballots were cast.
The district, which was reconfigured in the wake of the 2010 Census, includes portions of Dutchess and Westchester Counties along the Hudson River and all of Putnam and Orange Counties to the west. When the district lines were announced in the spring, only Alexander actually lived within its borders. Maloney, his partner, realtor, interior designer, and author Randy Florke, and their three adopted children had homes in Manhattan and Sullivan County, just to the west of Orange County. The family has since moved to Cold Spring, a Hudson River community in the district.
Asked in a recent interview with Gay City News whether his status as a newcomer resident in the district was a concern for voters he had met, Maloney responded, “No, it’s not. People care about the issues facing middle-class families.” He noted that his home in Sullivan County was “just up the road” from Orange County.
Maloney’s view of voter attitudes on the issue was apparently on target, given his near-majority finish in a five-man race.
The primary winner said that, in making the race, his strengths were in “sharing the values of middle class families” in the district, his status as the only Democrat running with both federal and state government experience, and his ability to field the best campaign team and the greatest resources.
The most recent federal campaign finance filings in the race, completed on June 6, showed Maloney had outraised Becker $531,000 to $404,000, receipts that dwarfed the $148,000 posted by Alexander.
Maloney noted that his campaign’s communications effort was helmed by Jennifer Cunningham from SKDKnickerbocker, a longtime political ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Maloney contested the 2006 state attorney general primary against Cuomo.
In addition to his fundraising advantage, Maloney also enjoyed big name endorsements, including that of former President Bill Clinton, who has lived in Westchester County since leaving the White House, and powerful support from organized labor. He was endorsed by the New York State AFL-CIO, the New York State United Teachers, the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the United Auto Workers, the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU’s 32BJ building service workers union, and the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500.
Maloney’s primary night victory party was held at the Teamsters’ Local 445 headquarters in Rock Tavern, an Orange County community.
In November, Maloney will face a Republican candidate who won her first race two years ago with significant Tea Party support. In comments about the race made early this year at an appearance in Manhattan, out gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, noting that the Democrats must show a net gain of 25 congressional seats if they are to regain the majority, said, “We won’t retake the House” if Hayworth, formerly an ophthalmologist from Westchester County’s Mount Kisco, is not defeated.
Maloney voiced confidence about his chances in the fall and his party’s shot at winning control of Congress.
“The House is very much in play,” he told Gay City News. “But, I don’t take lightly running against a well-funded Tea Party favorite.”
He stated that Hayworth had twice voted for Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s budget that would “defund Medicare,” was “a field general in the war on women,” having voted to strip funding from the Women’s Health Care Act and Planned Parenthood, and had even voted against disaster relief for her district in the wake of Hurricane Irene last year.
In an email message to his supporters announcing his run for Congress, Maloney said there was “an urgent need” to recapture the majority from “House Republicans who have turned government into a bitter game of ideological warfare; who can’t compromise or negotiate; who reject smart investments in education and infrastructure; who reject sensible tax policies that create jobs and balance budgets; who would end Medicare as we know it; and take us back decades to a world where women are denied access to contraception coverage, where the environment is under siege, and where LGBT people are second-class citizens.”
At a Manhattan appearance early this year, Alexander, who has dealt with Hayworth as Wappingers Falls’ mayor, said that the Republican had told him, “We’re only here for interstate highways and national defense,” and complained that environmental regulations to protect the Hudson River watershed as well as Wappinger Lake, which borders his community, were stifling business in the area.
Hayworth, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, has a gay son, has steered a more moderate course on LGBT rights. The Human Rights Campaign, which issues report cards on Congress every two years, has not yet compiled its tally on the 2011-2012 session, but in June of last year the group lauded Hayworth for being one of four House members –– two Democrats and two Republicans –– who introduced the Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, which would end taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health insurance of the type exempt if provided to a different-sex spouse.
On marriage equality, however, the incumbent has not been clear in her position, despite the fact that gay and lesbian couples have been able to marry legally in New York State for the past year. The Lower Hudson Valley Journal-News reported that in a Republican primary debate in 2010, she said only, “I will not seek to force a definition of marriage on the states.”
However, Hayworth has not signed on to fellow New Yorker Jerrold Nadler's bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages.
Maloney was dismissive of his opponent’s bona fides on LGBT issues.
“The number one issue for the community, she is on the wrong side of,” he said of her waffling on marriage equality. “There is no issue for our community that our community cares about that she is better than me on.”