Patel launches third Democratic primary challenge against Congresswoman Maloney

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Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (l.) and her Democratic primary challenger Suraj Patel (Photos by Mark Hallum/QNS)

New York Democrat Suraj Patel will mount a primary challenge against Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for the third straight election cycle. Patel, a lawyer, activist, lecturer on business ethics at NYU and former staffer in the Obama administration, announced his campaign Monday to thwart Maloney, the chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, as she seeks a 16th term in Congress.

Patel came within four points of defeating Maloney in one of 2020’s closest primary races.

“Democrats need a new generation of leaders. This is a new decade, a new district, and as we enter year three of the pandemic, we’ve got new challenges, which means we need a government that proactively develops 21st-century solutions to 21st-century problems,” Patel said. “I will solve these problems because I have lived them.”

When his parents emigrated from India in the late 1960s in search of economic opportunity, they fit three generations of his family in a two-bedroom apartment over the bodega they ran. His father got a night job fixing subway trucks, and eventually, they started a family business in the hospitality sector.

“I understand what our small businesses are going through – my earliest memory is stacking newspapers in my family’s bodega before my dad went off to his job as an MTA worker, and for the last two years, I’ve fought off foreclosures for the family business, making sure workers have healthcare, jobs and landed on their feet,” Patel said.

He worked on both of President Obama’s campaigns and went on to be an associate on the White House Advance Team. During the Trump administration, Patel became a full-time organizer, working to support a new generation of American leaders. When Patel ran against Maloney in 2020, the primary results were delayed for six weeks due to a court battle over absentee ballots. Around 12,500 ballots were never counted, so Patel went to court fighting for election reform. He also served as a volunteer attorney for the ACLU when Trump’s Muslim Ban was enacted.

“I understand that with Republicans attacking democracy nationally, we need to stand up for it locally,” Patel said. “I went to court here after thousands of New Yorkers had their votes thrown out, and we changed how ballots are designed, distributed and counted. I understand that Democrats need to stand up for science, safety and our schools, and I will be that Democrat.”

Patel enters a crowded Democratic primary field that includes housing advocate Maya Contreras and community organizer Rana Abdelhamid of Astoria. Maloney has represented New York’s 12th Congressional District since 1993.