So much for keeping it in the family. Sean Partrick Maloney’s decision to run for re-election in Mondaire Jones’ redrawn district has resulted in a public meltdown among House Democrats, who already have enough problems heading into the midterms. The fury within the caucus that Punchbowl reported early yesterday morning didn’t take long to break out, with Ritchie Torres accusing the DCCC chair of “thinly veiled racism”:
The thinly veiled racism here is profoundly disappointing.
A black man is ideologically ill suited to represent a Westchester County District that he represents presently and won decisively in 2020?
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) May 18, 2022
Oh my. Punchbowl’s back today with the background on the blow-up, which senior House Democrats tried mightily to tamp down. Torres was directly asked to “keep it in the family” after this tweet, but Torres wasn’t finished:
Torres’ comments – in response to Jake’s tweet – sent shockwaves through the Democratic Caucus, especially those members who don’t love SPM. “Add me to the list of many who are appalled and outraged at what SPM is doing,” one House Democrat said to us in an unsolicited text message. “How the hell does a DCCC chair abandon a competitive seat to primary another Democratic colleague?!?!?”
Yet by the afternoon, senior members of the CBC, including Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, huddled with Torres on the floor and implored him to “dial it down.” They urged Torres to keep the debate over New York’s House seats “within the family,” as in the Democratic Caucus, we’re told by multiple witnesses.
However, following the conversation, Torres did just the opposite. “My tweet speaks for itself. I was crystal clear about where I stand,” told us leaving the House floor Wednesday evening.
Torres isn’t the only one sensing a bit of racism within House Democrat leadership. The New York Post reports that the NAACP began some throat-clearing over the attempt to jam two freshmen black representatives into a primary against each other for the benefit of a white guy:
Civil rights activists expressed concern about potentially losing the voices of two black members of Congress — first-term incumbent Jones and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who currently represents the 16th CD covering the northern Bronx and parts of Westchester County. Bowman’s new district now goes farther into Westchester and carves out The Bronx.
“I’m very surprised, very concerned about what I’m hearing,” said New York State NAACP chapter president Hazel Dukes.
“Do I want to see two new African-American congressmen — Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman — lose their seats? Of course not! I don’t want to see representatives who are committed to justice and equality sacrificed,” Dukes said.
“I know Mondaire Jones personally. He grew up in the NAACP. He served as a youth coordinator on the national board. He’s a smart man. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon.”
Maloney’s allies have begun fighting back against these attacks. CNN got an earful from them about Maloney’s fight against the new redistricting maps, hoping to stave off these kinds of conflicts altogether. They argue that the infighting doesn’t help with the legal challenges against the judicially imposed maps, which Maloney is challenging through the DCCC:
The target on Maloney, some allies say, is a distraction from the larger issue at hand. Democrats are facing a daunting map in an environment where President Joe Biden’s approval rating is sagging, and historically, midterm elections have spelled trouble in a President’s first term.
Allies also argue that Maloney has played a pivotal role for months in trying to guarantee fair maps, especially in New York, with one source familiar with the matter telling CNN that Maloney and the committee’s leadership and redistricting staff have participated in nearly three dozen strategy calls and meetings focused specifically on the drawing of congressional maps in New York.
“This sort of pointless sniping is detrimental to our efforts to keep the majority. We have an extremely capable DCCC chair who has demonstrated he can walk and chew gum. Maloney clearly has the confidence of his colleagues to lead the fight and keep (House Republican leader) Kevin McCarthy and his radical, dangerous members in the minority,” a separate senior Democratic aide told CNN in a statement.
Talk about whistling past the graveyard. House Democrats don’t need Maloney to save their majority; they need Houdini or David Copperfield. The question in this midterm isn’t whether Democrats can hold the House majority, but how many seats will they need to gain in 2024 to get it back. Perhaps Maloney can help limit the losses, and perhaps House Democrats don’t have anyone better positioned to do so (although that seems questionable, given these circumstances), but they’re not going to save themselves while Joe Biden remains president.
For the moment, Nancy Pelosi’s backing Maloney:
“I don’t know if that’s settled,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday morning while exiting a caucus meeting. “He said I’m running where my house is, that’s all I know that he said. And that’s a logical thing for people to do — where my home is. But we’re still hopeful there could still be some change in what this is.”
We’ll see how long that lasts. After the midterms, it’s likely that neither Pelosi or Maloney will keep their jobs for long. This is almost certainly Pelosi’s last election, and Maloney’s prospects for a political future look pretty glum regardless of whether he can win a primary fight in any district now.