An experienced Indian-American politico trying his hand at elected office for the first time, went head-to-head June 12, with a long-time incumbent in a bid to secure the Democratic Party nomination for the 12th Congressional District in New York. Barely two weeks ahead of the June 26 primaries, the first and only debate between Suraj Patel and Rep. Carolyn Maloney was televised on NY1 and attacks ranged from campaign ethics to North Korea, according to a Politico news report.
Patel, a lawyer, activist and entrepreneur has flaunted his ‘millennial’ standing and called for a change of leadership. Rep. Maloney, a lawmaker for 13 terms, has built close ties with the Indian-American community over the years, an advantage some would call it, in light of the redistricting of District 12, which now also includes a part of Queens. According to a 2013 report by the Asian American Federation on Indian-Americans in New York City, the community was the second largest Asian ethnic group in the metropolitan area, and by borough, 65 percent of Indian New Yorkers live in Queens.
Maloney is considered by the Indian-American community as a leader in lobbying successfully for a U.S. Postage Stamp on Diwali which became a reality in 2016, and is seen occasionally at gatherings organized by Indian-Americans.
Patel says he has defended immigrants’ rights at John F. Kennedy Airport, lectured on business ethics at New York University, advocated against gerrymandering and voter suppression, apart from having worked on the Obama campaigns.
His reason for taking on Maloney are, among others, because she has not had a “progressive” challenger for 24 years. However, several years ago, another Indian-American, Reshma Saujani, founder of the now high profile non-profit, Girls Who Code, tried unsuccessfully, to dislodge Maloney. Patel also says, “I’m running for Congress because I would like to hand off a world to the next generation that is more just, more fair, and more equal than the one we were given. This election is more than just about us now, it’s about the future.”
He says on June 26, “a new set of New Yorkers is ready to vote,” clearly placing a premium on younger rather than older voters. His ads and photos on his website portray a younger Democrats that he obviously considers, will go to the polls come June 26.
Earlier in the campaign, Maloney made a snafu when she implied a negative connotation to the many Patels who had contributed to the Indian-American’s campaign, smacking of an earlier era. He came back with a photo of several Indian-Americans in his campaign office, accompanied by the pointed remark – “These Patels are actually related! #BrothersPatel (+our Chief of Staff)”
During the June 12 debate, Maloney challenged Patel to show what he had done for his constituency, in response to which Patel trotted out his advocacy work and his job, saying, “Not only am I an attorney, but I teach business ethics at NYU. That’s God’s work,” Politico reported.
He questioned Maloney’s votes on issues like mandatory sentencing laws put in place by President Bill Clinton and regretted by most Democrats who thought then that it was a good idea and apologize for it now, as did Moloney. Patel has also launched a poster campaign on Maloney relating to the alleged link between autism and vaccinations.
Maloney hit back with alleged labor violations in various hotels owned by Patel’s family, and his claiming homestead tax exemption in Indiana when he had been living in the East Village in Manhattan for 12 years. Patel regretted doing that and said it would not happen again.
Patel also accused Maloney of taking Big Money from corporations and special interests.
While the debate was short it covered a lot of territory, including areas where the two agreed. Politico reported, both saying they were not for a denuclearization agreement with North Korea if it included withdrawing U.S. troops from that peninsula; and neither wanted to impeach President Donald Trump.