Sean Patrick Maloney, an out gay Democrat who ran for state attorney general in 2006 and served Governors David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer as first deputy secretary from 2007 until early 2009, announced on March 14 that he is making a run for Congress in New York’s newly configured 18th congressional district.
In an email message to supporters, Maloney, 45, explained his run is motivated by the rightward shift in the House of Representatives after the 2010 election. If he wins the June 26 Democratic primary –– which looks likely to have six contenders –– he would face freshman Republican Representative Nan Hayworth, a Mount Kisco ophthalmologist who beat two-term Democrat John Hall two years ago.
“I am running because there is an urgent need to take back our Congress from the Tea Party extremists like Hayworth 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," Maloney wrote in the letter seeking campaign donations.
Among the five other Democratic candidates for the 18th district is Matt Alexander, the out gay mayor of Wappingers Falls, a municipality of 5,000 in Dutchess County, just east of the Hudson River.
The rest of the field includes cardiologist Rich Becker, who has been on the Town Board in Cortlandt, a Westchester community of roughly 42,000, since 2007, Tom Wilson, the mayor of Tuxedo Park, an Orange County community with just over 700 residents, Anne Jacobs Moultrie, a nurse and union official, and Duane Jackson, a handbag vendor who among several men who alerted police to the smoking SUV used in the failed 2010 Times Square bomb plot.
Maloney, who earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Virginia and spent three years as staff secretary in President Bill Clinton’s White House, ran in a crowded 2006 attorney general field and lost to Andrew Cuomo, who served one term in that office before being elected governor. Maloney has also worked at the Manhattan law firms of Willkie Farr & Gallagher and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where he has been a partner since last May. In 2006, he said his work at Willkie involved criminal and institutional investigations of corporate conduct.
Maloney and his longtime partner, Randy Florke, a realtor, interior designer, and author, have three adopted children and have homes in Manhattan and Sullivan County.
Maloney had originally planned to run for the open seat that ten-term Democrat Maurice Hinchey announced plans to retire from. However, in newly drawn district lines based on the 2010 Census, Hinchey’s district was eliminated and Sullivan County was incorporated into Republican Congressman Chris Gibson’s district.
Alexander’s campaign manager, TJ Helmstetter, issued a written statement noting that neither of Maloney’s residences are within the new 18th district, which includes Putnam and Orange Counties and portions of Westchester and Dutchess.
“The district’s families don’t need another Manhattan Democrat propelled by ambition and money to fly into their district with a cape, with no knowledge of its people or the unique problems they face,” wrote Helmstetter.
Maloney did not immediately respond to a question regarding that charge. Members of Congress are required to live in the state where their district is, but not in the district itself. Sullivan County, where Maloney and Florke have a home in Jeffersonville, is adjacent to Orange County on the north and west.
At a January Alexander fundraiser in Tribeca, out gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who is retiring this year, and Manhattan Representative Carolyn Maloney voiced their support for the Wappingers Falls mayor, describing Hayworth’s seat as one Democrats must win back if they have any hope of recapturing the House in November.
At that event, Alexander recalled that in his first meeting with Hayworth after her 2010 election, she said, regarding the scope of the federal government’s responsibilities, “We’re only here for interstate highways and national defense.” When Alexander raised his concerns about the Hudson watershed and pollution in Wappinger Lake, which borders his municipality, Hayworth, he said, responded by saying regulation was stifling business in the area.
If Hayworth has a starkly conservative vision about the role government should play, she has steered a more moderate course on LGBT rights. The Human Rights Campaign, which issues report cards on Congress ever two years, has not yet compiled its report 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.
The Lower Hudson Valley Journal-News reported that in a Republican primary debate in 2010, Hayworth was vague about her position on marriage equality, saying simply, “I will not seek to force a definition of marriage on the states.” She has not, however, 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, such as those now available in the Empire State.