Did you vote in one of NYC’s seven congressional primaries yesterday?
If so, good for you for paying attention and doing your civic duty. Depending on where you were, that might have been a crucial vote — or not.
North of Manhattan's upper 90s, for example, New Yorkers in the 13th Congressional District had a competitive slate to choose from on primary day, including longtime legislators and some qualified newcomers.
But a few blocks south, it was a very different story.
Consider the 12th Congressional District, which borders on the competitive Harlem race and stretches down to the Lower East Side and east into swathes of Brooklyn and Queens.
There, 12-term incumbent Carolyn Maloney ran against Pete Lindner, a statistical modeler and inventor of a now-defunct fitness app with no political experience.
Meet Pete Lindner
Speaking unhurriedly over the phone for a solid half hour on primary day, Lindner told amNewYork that he voted for Maloney in 2014. But whatever fondness he had for her faded when he learned some new information concerning a court case he’d been pursuing for years against his one-time employer IBM.
During the case, Lindner says that “stuff was happening to my witnesses” and alleges that the judge hearing his case was corrupt. He tried to explain this to Maloney and enlist her help. He says her office ultimately declined.
Lindner says that one of his witnesses claims she was approached by the judge in his case and asked to plant “a pound of cocaine” and “child porn” in his apartment. This witness told him Maloney later called her to discuss Lindner's case, which made Lindner think that Maloney was colluding with the judge. This is what set off his run for Congress.
Maloney’s campaign issued a statement saying Lindner’s accusations are “just total fantasyland, with no basis in truth whatsoever.”
Lindner says his case was dismissed last year, and that the court case grudge was the reason he decided to run.
Beyond its bizarre origins, his campaign was challenged on a purely logistical standpoint. As of June 8, the most recent FEC filing, he had negative $6,006 cash on hand. He had spent more money on the campaign than he'd collected in contributions ($0) and loaned himself ($4,000).
The voters in his district who made it out to the polls might be forgiven for knowing little about him. He says his campaigning had been limited to areas near his home — Stuyvesant Town, Washington Square Park, Union Square.
So the results were unsurprising. Lindner’s bootstrap campaign received less than 1,500 votes, but Maloney, who received $1,314,264 in contributions over the same period, won handily with nearly ten times her opponent's total and will go on to the general election, where she will tout her record of bringing funding back to NYC for infrastructure projects from the 2nd Avenue Subway to the Kosciuszko Bridge.
She will remind voters of her moment in the sun during the house sit-in for gun control after Orlando. Some will fondly recall her advocacy on behalf of getting pandas for the Bronx Zoo. Not particularly challenged in the primary, she likely won’t have to stretch to earn votes in the general either.
Elsewhere in the city, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat declared victory in a very tight race over Assemb. Keith Wright, who had been endorsed by Charles Rangel. Espaillat's close win represents a new direction for the district. But one race that might have been interesting wasn't: Rep. Jerrold Nadler blew his challenger out of the water notwithstanding his opponent's harping on Nadler's vote for the Iran deal, an attempt to appeal to the district's conservative Jewish voters.
A polling site in Maloney’s once and future district on Third Avenue between 95th and 96th was also a site for some in Rangel’s old district. Even still, only about 150 had voted by the afternoon.
Gerald Briggs, a poll worker and Maloney voter said it had been quiet all morning.
Briggs, 66, says the biggest turnout he’d ever seen in the area was in 2008, when President Barack Obama was on the ballot. “At 6 am they had a line out the door.”
The presidential primary in April was fairly busy, he says. This congressional primary was different. More like when just judges are on the ballot. “Judges are the worst,” he says. “Nobody knows anything about the judges.” But attendance was similar for this lackluster race for high office.
“Maybe it’s the weather,” he ventured, squinting at the sky on the cool and dry afternoon.