The controversy, which Democratic leaders are trying to tamp down in order to avoid a full-blown public brawl, has led some members to question whether DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney is the man to lead them during a midterm season that is already daunting for the party.
In a new letter provided first to CNN, the DCCC, along with several constituents affected by the redistricting, call on a New York court to reconsider Monday’s draft congressional map that the DCCC argues would undo “decades of hard-fought racial progress” and fracture “important communities of interest throughout New York.”
“The Proposed Map is the result of a flawed process that did not provide the public, including minority voters who live in historically marginalized communities, with an opportunity to provide input,” the letter says. “We urge the Special Master to uncouple Black incumbents and reunite communities of interest around New York City, on Long Island, and in the Hudson River Valley.”
In the letter, the DCCC argues that the proposed congressional map could potentially pit four Black incumbents against one another out of the seven Black members from the New York delegation, reducing diverse representation that has been shaped over decades. The DCCC also argues in their letter that new map needlessly pits incumbents against one another and “fractures communities of interest” into several districts both of which could run afoul to New York’s Constitution.
“We urge the Court to recognize the limitations of the Proposed Map and to promptly direct the Special Master to make immediate changes to account for these problems,” the letter reads.
The letter is part of the ongoing public comment period closing at midnight Wednesday. A final decision on the congressional map is expected Friday.
DCCC chair at center of controversy
Maloney, who is White, infuriated some of his colleagues after the draft map was released Monday when he quickly announced he would run in the newly drawn NY-17 district, where his home is located, setting up a potential matchup with freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, who is Black and currently represents the district. Jones did not comment to CNN Wednesday about which district he would run in if the draft map is finalized.
“This whole thing is crazy,” one member, who spoke on background in order to freely discuss the matter, told CNN in regard to Maloney’s decision. “This is laughably crazy.”
Behind the scenes, leaders are trying to keep disagreements within the Democratic family, looking to avoid messy public fallout erupting in the wake of news that several pairs of Democrats may be forced to run against one another.
The target on Maloney, some allies say, is a distraction from the larger issue at hand. Democrats are facing a daunting map in an environment where President Joe Biden’s
approval rating is sagging, and historically, midterm elections have spelled trouble in a President’s first term.
Allies also argue that Maloney has played a pivotal role for months in trying to guarantee fair maps, especially in New York, with one source familiar with the matter telling CNN that Maloney and the committee’s leadership and redistricting staff have participated in nearly three dozen strategy calls and meetings focused specifically on the drawing of congressional maps in New York.
“This sort of pointless sniping is detrimental to our efforts to keep the majority. We have an extremely capable DCCC chair who has demonstrated he can walk and chew gum. Maloney clearly has the confidence of his colleagues to lead the fight and keep (House Republican leader) Kevin McCarthy and his radical, dangerous members in the minority,” a separate senior Democratic aide told CNN in a statement.
Some Democrats also want to spend less time focusing on Maloney’s personal decision about what district to run in and more on building the case that the new map introduces inequalities that harm minority communities. On Wednesday, lawyers on behalf of New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie sent another letter to the special master laying out how changes to the map made “significant disruptions to minority communities throughout New York City” and “systematically disfavors incumbents,” both of which the complaint says “do not comport with specific redistricting mandates set forth in article III of the New York Constitution.”
For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplayed the impact of Maloney’s announcement, calling it “a logical thing” for Maloney to run in the newly drawn NY-17 despite a potential primary against Jones.
“I don’t know if that’s settled,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday morning while exiting a caucus meeting. “He said I’m running where my house is, that’s all I know that he said. And that’s a logical thing for people to do — where my home is. But we’re still hopeful there could still be some change in what this is.”
She said it made no sense to “put (Rep. Jamaal) Bowman and Mondaire (Jones) in the same district, Hakeem (Jeffries) and Yvette (Clarke) in the same district.”
“Something is wrong with their thinking. But that’s New York,” she said.
Maloney has insisted he wouldn’t step down from his role leading the DCCC even if he has to face off against a fellow Democrat. There is also no official mechanism for members to oust him from that job, per House rules.
‘Thinly veiled racism here’
Lawmakers privately aired their grievances during a House vote series Tuesday and publicly Wednesday at Maloney’s decision to announce his intent to run in a different district than the one he currently serves and run against a progressive Black Democrat from that community.
Sources told CNN the potential matchups in these newly drawn New York districts have not only angered Democrats in vulnerable seats that need help from the DCCC but also members of the Congressional Black Caucus who don’t believe Maloney should run against Jones.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, who is Black and a member of the New York Democratic congressional delegation, voiced his anger toward his party’s leadership and Pelosi in a fiery tweet Wednesday.
“The thinly veiled racism here is profoundly disappointing. A black man is ideologically ill suited to represent a Westchester County District that he represents presently and won decisively in 2020?” Torres tweeted, referring to a report that Maloney’s allies believe that Jones would be a better fit for another district.
“There’s a simple solution here. Maloney should run in NY-18, which he mostly represents. Jones in NY-17, which he mostly represents. Bowman in NY-16, which he mostly represents. Problem solved,” Torres continued.
Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the Democratic caucus and a member of the New York delegation, slammed the newly drawn districts in a news conference with reporters Tuesday, saying they were purposely drawn to hurt the Black and Latino communities in the state.
“The Black or Latino population was degraded in all four districts. Are you kidding me?” said Jeffries, who is Black. “The core of existing congressional districts should be protected. … So yes, we have a problem with these maps. It would make Jim Crow blush.”
Jeffries also released the second in a series of digital ads Wednesday night assailing the proposed map.