BY ARTHUR SCHWARTZ | We all know that 2020 will be a watershed year in national politics. The unthinkably monstrous, racist, sexist, xenophobic, grandiose thing in the White House is so ripe for a challenge that 25 or more candidates are looking to be the one to take him down.
And in the run-up to that election, the Democratic primary is a test of whether Democratic Party voters want to go back to the Democratic Party of 2008-16 , or want to move forward to become the party at first envisioned by Bernie Sanders in 2016, advanced by The Squad, and reflected in a push for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, tuition-free higher education, and a genuine effort to rein in the 1%.
That conflict is already playing itself out in Villager-land. The eastern part of Greenwich Village and Chelsea is represented in Congress by a relic of the past, of the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton, named Carolyn Maloney. Her district was once called the Silk-Stocking District, and when she was elected was entirely on the East Side of Manhattan, from 96th St. down to Loisaida.
But several rounds of redistricting have created a district that includes Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City and Astoria, areas in Brooklyn and Queens that include increasing numbers of millennials, and many people of color. Since 2010 Carolyn has faced a series of challengers, and in 2018 her opponent, Suraj Patel, got 41 percent of the vote, winning on the eastern side of the East River in North Williamsburg and Greenpoint, though Maloney held the Queens part of the district. That was the same 2018 primary that saw Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez beat 20-year incumbent Joe Crowley, the Queens Boss.
The result is that there are candidates said to be lining up to be the one to take on Maloney in the June 2020 primary — though, so far, only two have officially filed. They know that only one needs to be in the arena next June if Carolyn is to be defeated.
One local pol recently said to me, “Carolyn needs to figure out a dignified exit,” yet she seems to be diving headfirst into a campaign in which she will be buffeted because of her often Bill Clintonesque politics in a Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren-AOC world. She is a big free-trader (the only New York congressmember who voted for NAFTA), a hawk on U.S. foreign policy, and a large recipient of corporate money. My bet is on Lauren Ashcraft to be her main opponent next year.
“Who?” you say. Lauren is a candidate who comes out of that same group of activists who backed AOC’s campaign, and almost propelled Tiffany Caban to the district attorney’s office in Queens. She is 30 years old, a JP Morgan Chase compliance officer, and a standup comic. She is the daughter of an immigrant father, and a granddaughter of an individual with serious disabilities; she is a genuinely impassioned advocate for the immigrant community, and for expansion of the Americans With Disabilities Act. She knows a lot about the banking system and that she wants none of their money. And her activist crew is already going door to door, more than 10 months before the primary. And she is a Bernie-sis, while Carolyn has endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand. It will be a race to watch.
(In another congressional race, Jerry Nadler will have a well-funded primary opponent, who comes from Andrew Cuomo-world, but Jerry, I believe, is an unbeatable folk hero.)
The New York State Legislature is in for another round of high-profile challenges like the state Senate had last year. But this time it will be assemblymembers, since the Assembly blocked many progressive pieces of legislation this year that had been adopted by the Senate. My prediction? Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who has been around even longer than Carolyn, will have a very serious opponent. (It won’t be me.) She had a serious break with many L.G.B.T. activists by blocking a surrogacy bill that was proposed by her usual ally Senator Brad Hoylman. There is a PAC in formation that already has $150,000 pledged to help bring about her defeat. Several people are auditioning to take her on.
The other interesting thing to watch will be alignment of Downtown electeds with presidential candidates. The New York primary will be the last Tuesday in April, and with a multicandidate field, it will matter a lot. Few local elected officials have aligned, but many will decide before petitioning begins in January, if they are looking to secure a place at the Democratic Convention. Pete Buttigieg is a conundrum for some; he is an L.G.B.T. breakthrough, but he seems to be fading already. A candidate needs 15 percent of the vote to get any delegates in New York and it is unlikely that he will get there.
It will be an interesting year, even before the November finale.
Schwartz is the male Democratic district leader for Greenwich Village.
Corrections: The original version of this article misstated the percentage of the vote Suraj Patel got in the 2016 Democratic primary election versus Carolyn Maloney; it was 41 percent, not 42 percent. Also the name of an opponent planning to run against Maloney in the June 2020 primary was misstated as Lauren Ashford; her correct name is Lauren Ashcraft. In addition, the original version of the article erroneously stated that Carolyn Maloney is backing Joe Biden for the presidency, when, in fact, she has endorsed New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.