Newcomer challenges Rep. Maloney in Democratic primary

A 25-year incumbent and an ambitious political newcomer are fighting to represent New York's 12th Congressional District, which spans parts of Manhattan's East Side, northern Brooklyn, and northwestern Queens.

Carolyn Maloney has served 13 terms in Congress and is seeking a 14th. 

"I'm working hard and doing my job," she said during a recent interview. "I actually get things done, I actually pass meaningful legislation. I've passed over 70 bills."

But her challenger in the Democratic party, attorney and NYU Professor Suraj Patel, is trying to convince voters to give him a chance.

"I don't think the congresswoman has been effective in engaging the whole district and in representing it," Patel said.

Patel, who worked on Barack Obama's campaigns, is trying to do that by running a millennial-driven campaign, targeting younger, previously unengaged voters—what he calls "The New Electorate."

"We can use new energy and new ideas," he said, "because 98 percent of congress-people get re-elected, but Congress has a 13 percent approval rating. And I think that major disconnect needs to be addressed."

Among Patel's ideas and key stances is defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Patel believes Democrats in office haven't done enough on immigration.

"Since 1996, the ratchet on immigration has gone in one direction: more deportations, more detentions, more border walls and security," Patel said. "And every year our Democrats seem to think, 'Well, if we go along with it, tomorrow the Republicans will wake up and grow a heart on this issue."

Maloney has been active on the immigration front. This past weekend, she visited an ICE detention center in New Jersey and met with immigrants who have been separated from their children. She said that ICE needs to be reformed and restructured.

"They have gone overboard, pulling children out of the arms of their fathers," she said.

In terms of her record, the congresswoman points to her work on securing funding for the 911 Health Compensation Act and the Second Avenue Subway as a couple of her achievements in office.

But Patel said that record isn't perfect and has criticized her votes in favor of the Iraq War and against the Iran deal, among others.

Maloney has criticized Patel for his lack of experience and over questions about his voter registration, which he has switched several times in the last few years. He also claimed a tax deduction reserved for primary residences in the state of Indiana, despite living in New York. In a recent debate, Maloney called that "dishonest" but Patel said it was an honest mistake.

Patel said he didn't think those lines of attacks would sway voters.

"No one cares," he said of the questions about voter registration. "I don't get asked about that kind of thing on the street. People care about issues, they care about the future."

Maloney, also looking to the future, is asking voters to keep their faith in her.

"I have a record to work on that's helped them, absolutely helped the city, I think helped the country and helped individuals," Maloney said.

The race could come down to voter turnout. A meager 8 percent of registered voters turned out in the last congressional primary. Patel is hoping that that driving more voters to the polls could make a difference.

The New York primary is Tuesday, June 26.