Sean Patrick Maloney didn’t deserve to win.
The powerful Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman’s one-point defeat by a first-term assemblyman is part of a congressional bloodbath in the New York suburbs and upstate, where six Republicans claimed victory. The fabled red wave failed to materialize in the rest of the country, leaving Democrats down by just 13 votes in the House—as of this afternoon—meaning those six seats could be key to the margin. There are a lot of reasons why Democrats lost in New York, redistricting being high among them. But the fact that Maloney, the man charged with protecting his colleagues, couldn’t concentrate on even his immediate neighbors—siphoning resources away from them and even running one off into retirement—can’t be ignored. Maloney was and always has been exceedingly selfish when it comes to his home politics. His entire pitch (that he knows how to beat Republicans because he’s done it himself in a swing district) elides the fact that he’s consistently dicked over fellow Democrats to do it. There was never any secret sauce; he’s just a snake.
Maloney built staying power by strategically endorsing Republicans and always looking out for number one. He may have screamed his head off about abortion this cycle, but in 2014 he fawned all over and endorsed an anti-choice, NRA-funded state senator against a pro-choice Black city councilwoman from Newburgh. In 2015 and 2019, Maloney—who is gay—actively campaigned with another anti-choice, anti-gun control Republican, who opposed marriage equality (!), for mayor of Poughkeepsie, a majority-minority city, rather than support the respective Black Democrats who ran each cycle. And again in 2019, Maloney refused to back the Democrat running against Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, yet another anti-choice Republican he’d previously campaigned with. Molinaro just secured a narrow two-point victory over a Working Families Party Democrat in a competitive congressional district directly north.
Maloney has always cried “bipartisanship” to defend his actions, claiming he didn’t have the luxury to do basic things like support Obamacare (he was one of only two Democrats to vote against it) or the Dodd-Frank Act (he voted three times to weaken it), but really it’s always been all about his own ego. That’s why, in 2018, he ran simultaneously for attorney general and for reelection to Congress. It was an extremely arrogant play that defied a state law prohibiting candidates from running for two offices at the same time. Maloney argued that if he won the AG’s race he could always decline the Democratic nomination for Congress. It also meant that if he lost he’d have a back-up plan, which is exactly what happened. To fortify that same campaign for AG, he siphoned $1.4 million from his congressional campaign account—money that donors presumably gave to defeat a Republican challenge, not to blow on a Democratic primary featuring three female candidates, two of them Black.
But squandering other people’s money is exactly what Maloney did again this past cycle, when the DCCC discharged $600,000 in a failed attempt to save his ass two weeks before Election Day—money that maybe could’ve gone to other Democrats, like Francis Conole in New York’s district 22, who’s currently down by just one point in a Syracuse-based district where Democrats should’ve been able to run up the numbers for a definitive pickup.
Perhaps the most direct proof against Maloney’s Republican-slayer chops is the fact that he didn’t even want to run in his home district, ditching it for the slightly bluer district 17 represented by Mondaire Jones. Although State Senator Alessandra Biaggi stepped up to challenge Maloney in the primary, the move successfully bullied off the Black, gay progressive who could well have won reelection without his chairman in the race. To top it all off, confirmed non-prick Pat Ryan, who has never endorsed a Republican, just won in Maloney’s redrawn district 18 (+ 8.5 Biden), running on abortion rights, fighting corporate monopolies, and protecting democracy. The irony is that Maloney will probably go on to make way too much money whining on Morning Joe about how centrists like him could win if progressives would stop sabotaging them in the primary (Biaggi lost by 30 points).
It seems fitting that for all his chest-pounding, Maloney got pounded by a 36-year-old Republican who beat out a seven-term Democrat two years ago to win a seat in the legislature. Michael Lawler giddily called out Cuomo’s corruption and sexual misconduct, but hasn’t had boo to say about Trump. He’s smart and slippery, just like the man he took down.
DISCLOSURE: Alexis Grenell worked on Zephyr Teachout’s AG race in 2018 and her Hudson Valley congressional campaign in 2016.