Redistricting and BDS takes central stage in New York's Democratic primaries

Redistricting and BDS takes central stage in New York's Democratic primaries
As New Yorkers head to the polls today, the outcomes of the races could be just as surprising as this year's chaotic redistricting.
4 min read
Washington, D.C.
23 August, 2022
New York voters go to the polls Tuesday for the 2022 primaries. [Getty]

Tuesday's Democratic primary races in New York are difficult to predict due to a chaotic and controversial redistricting, in some cases pitting progressives against one another, with several candidates whose views on BDS have wavered throughout their campaigns as they try to navigate new constituents in newly redrawn districts. 

Grabbing the most headlines in New York this cycle are districts 10, 12, 16, 17 and 18. Those who win these Democratic primaries, given the liberal make-up of southern New York state, are all but guaranteed to win the general election in November. 

District 10, which straddles parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, is a crowded field of candidates, with the top five who made it this far being: Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, Representative Mondaire Jones, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, Council Member Carlina Rivera, former Representative Liz Holtzman and Daniel Goldman, a largely self-funded lawyer.  

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At least two District 10 candidates have been repeatedly asked to clarify their stances on BDS, the Palestinian boycott movement of Israel.

In the case of former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, he initially said he supported BDS, then said he opposed it, before dropping out of the race last month. Niou said last month in an interview with Jewish Insider that she supports BDS on free speech grounds, though she has declined to elaborate further when asked repeatedly since then for clarification. 

District 12, which includes the Upper East Side, Midtown and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is seeing two veteran incumbent lawmakers run against one another. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, though both Democrats, have fundamentally different voting records when it comes to several key issues related to the Middle East.

He voted against the Iraq war, he voted against the Patriot Act, and he has supported the Iran nuclear deal, all of which he is highlighting to contrast his more liberal voting record against hers. Also vying for the seat in District 12 are relative newcomers Suraj Patel and Ashmi Sheth, neither of whom have gained significant momentum in fundraising. 

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District 16 is seeing outspoken progress Jamaal Bowman face challenges from three moderate Democrats in this newly redrawn district far into the suburbs that is described as whiter and wealthier, seen as a possible sign that he could lose much of his progressive base, making him a vulnerable candidate.

To show that old grudges remain alive, Eliot Engel, the congressman that he ousted in 2020, along with several pro-Israel groups, is supporting one of his opponents, Vedat Gashi. Bowman's campaign has accused Gashi of darkening his face in their fliers, a common occurrence over the years for Black politicians, though Gashi's campaign denies the accusation. 

Sean Patrick Maloney, who currently serves as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, decided to switch from districts 18 in the Hudson Valley, where he now serves, to District 17, a bluer district closer to New York City, which led Mondaire Jones to move his race to District 10. Maloney's most prominent challenger is progressive Alessandra Biaggi, who has tried to distance herself from other progressives on Israel, which she says she supports. 

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For those wondering why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has not been in the news for her campaign this election cycle, it is because she is running unopposed in District 14. 

Making less news, but still noteworthy in this contentious New York election cycle, was the race of Rana Abdelhamid, an Egyptian American who dropped out following the elimination of her community from district 12, where she would have run against Carolyn Maloney. In the redrawing of the maps, the Arab community in Queens was cut apart and divided between two new districts.

Of all of the campaigns, Abdelhamid's, with the support of the Justice Democrats and $US1 million in grassroots funding, arguably had some of the best promise to shake up the establishment and bring another progressive voice to the table. Instead, New York's Democratic primaries have largely been characterised by chaotic redistricting, an awkward fixation on BDS, and petty party infighting.