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Left photo via Shutterstock. Right photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

This year’s primary race for New York’s 12th Congressional District, which includes areas of northwest Queens, has been one of the most anticipated leading up to the June 26 elections.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is facing off against civic activist Suraj Patel to be the representative for NY-12, which includes areas in Astoria, Long Island City and Woodside in addition to much of Manhattan’s East Side, Roosevelt Island and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

The incumbent has had 25 years of experience in congress, starting with NY-14 from 1993 to 2013 and NY-12 from 2013 onward following the district rezoning. The congresswoman said she has felt positive about her campaigning efforts and uniting the Democrats in her district.

“[Campaigning has] been terrific. I love the chance to talk about my record and why it’s so important, in these times, that Democrats stand united against the threat coming out of Washington these days,” the congresswoman said. 

Campaigns for me are always about meeting people,” she added. “Meeting people and speaking with them about what concerns them and their families, what keeps them up nights, and then trying to find ways to help them. For me, that is what serving the public and campaigns has always been about. People have to see you. They have to know they will see you even after the campaign is over, and that you are going to work like hell for them.”

In lieu of a more “traditional,” experience-based approach, newcomer Suraj Patel has been campaigning to the beat of his own drum. The Missisippi-born, Indiana native moved to New York 12 years ago to attend law school. Prior to running for Congress, Patel worked as an attorney, business ethics professor and as an employee for President Barack Obama’s campaign. The candidate said that the response to his campaign has been “tremendous.”

“I was told that that the campaign that has the most fun is the campaign that will win,” Patel said.

One of the ways which he’s been getting the word out about his campaign is through coffee cups. The candidate started reaching out to coffee cart companies across the city and said, “We’d like to advertise with you guys.” Now, 50 coffee cart owners throughout NY-12 have handed out 200,000 cups with his name and information about voter registration.

In addition to coffee cup hand-outs, Patel has also hosted a fitness town hall that included “mindful meditation” and attended a Flywheel spin class with his constituents back in February.

Suraj has called Maloney “out of touch” with District 12 and the Democratic Party, according to an article in Politico. The congresswoman responded to these criticisms by citing her proven track record, including sponsoring the Equal Rights Amendment in the House of Representatives, signing 70 measures into law and securing billions of dollars in funding for her district.

However the congresswoman said that she has supported things in the past that she “regrets” today, including former President Bill Clinton’s crime bill, that attacked communities of color and “accelerated mass incarceration,” according to BBC.

Despite the congresswoman’s experience, Patel thinks that it’s time for the district to stop “clinging to their stubborn past,” when it comes to the local politics. He adds that Queens is an integral part of the district, and he has been focusing his energy into engaging voters, especially the youth, who live in the borough.

One of his field headquarters is located in Long Island City, located at 11-51 47th Ave., which opened to the public on June 5. Through campaigning, he found that much of the district has “embraced his campaign” and found a way to relate to his story.

When it comes to the issues, the candidates both agree that working for the rights of immigrants and those seeking asylum, especially during era of the current presidency, is imperative. Recently, Maloney visited the ICE detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and protested President Donald Trump’s family separation policy; Trump put an end to the policy with an executive order on June 20.

“President Trump’s family separation policy is cruel, inhumane and intolerable. I met with fathers being held at this ICE detention center who literally had their children ripped from their arms in the middle of the night. That is not what this country is about. I’m supporting legislation to end this atrocity and will continue working for immigrant rights, as well as fight for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” Maloney said.

As a first-generation Indian-American who comes from an immigrant family, Patel expressed that “no one should live in fear of their government.” The candidate has said that he thinks ICE should be defunded, and added that it has “always been above the law.”

“That’s why I’m calling to defund ICE, and take away a weapon that this administration is using to target New Yorkers every day. The FBI, USMS, CIS, CBP and TSA are more than capable of fulfilling the essential law enforcement and customs activities currently performed by ICE without subjecting large populations to constant fear,” said Patel on his campaign website.

The primary elections for NY-12 are on Tuesday, June 26. Polls are opened from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visit voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/votersearch.aspx to see your voter registration status and nyc.pollsitelocator.com/Search.aspx to find your local polling location.

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