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Third Time Lucky?: N.Y. Democrat Suraj Patel to Challenge Rep. Carolyn Maloney From Newly Drawn 12th District

Third Time Lucky?: N.Y. Democrat Suraj Patel to Challenge Rep. Carolyn Maloney From Newly Drawn 12th District

  • The 40-year-old Indian American attorney, activist, business ethics professor, and former Obama staffer challenged the long-serving congresswoman in 2020 and 2018.

New York Democrat Suraj Patel is hoping to be third time lucky. The 40-year-old Indian American attorney, activist, and professor of business ethics at NYU is once again challenging long-serving Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the newly drawn 12th Congressional District. A former Obama staffer, Patel previously challenged Maloney in 2020 and 2018. In 2020, he lost by about 4 points, while in 2018, he received about 17,000 votes in the primary, 8,000 less than Maloney.

It remains to be seen if Democrats in the district will jettison Maloney, who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee, and opt for freshman who will not wield the kind of influence that the incumbent does with her seniority. Patel also has an uphill task in the newly drawn congressional district. The 12th District, whose geographical core includes Manhattan’s Upper East Side, now takes in portions of the borough’s Upper West Side that had previously belonged to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). The New York Times reported that in 2020, Patel had performed “particularly well in left-leaning enclaves of Brooklyn and Queens, which now represent a smaller share of the district after a new redistricting plan designed by Democratic state legislators.”

“Those new boundaries, drawn by state legislators, reportedly came at Maloney’s urging,” the Patch reports. According to the Census Reporter, District 12 has 15 percent Asian population, and 62 percent White. 

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

On his social media handles, Patel said he was running for Congress because he will never stop fighting. He said he’s going to finish what he started this year to ensure that voters choose their politicians and not the other way around. “With our democracy under attack, we need consistent fighters for it here at home. Two years ago, our opponent stayed silent while thousands of votes went uncounted, this year, she surgically gerrymandered the district to exclude Latino and young voters rather than win on ideas. It’s undemocratic and it’s unacceptable. Full stop. We need pragmatic, pro-growth, pro-democracy, pro-science leaders for the next decade.”

The Hill reported that Patel’s campaign also “released internal polling along with the announcement showing Patel winning 37 percent of the vote in a head-to-head with Maloney, while the incumbent gets 41 percent of the vote” Maloney leads Rana Abdelhamid, another progressive primary challenger, by a 44 percent to 23 percent margin in the same survey, the report said. “When the entire field is polled, Maloney leads with 37 percent support, trailed by Patel at 28 percent and Abdelhamid at 9 percent.”

In the 2020 primary, Patel sued Maloney in a Manhattan federal court claiming that more than 12,000 mail-in votes were disqualified over issues with ballots, including lack of postcards. Before the counting of the mail-in ballots began, Patel was almost tied with Maloney, with a few hundred votes separating the two. He ultimately conceded the race.

In 2018, Patel had said that he was banking on the support of millennials in the June 26 primary and had claimed that the new generation is desperate to see change. He received about 17,000 votes in the primary, 8,000 less than Maloney.

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Patel was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and grew up in Indiana. He has lived in New York since attending New York University School of Law some 12 years ago. He earned a B.A. in political science from Stanford University in 2005. He then received a J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 2009. In 2014, Patel earned his master of philosophy from the University of Cambridge.

He is the president of Sun Group of Companies, a real estate and investment firm specializing in hospitality, and an adviser to political campaigns as well as technology startups.  

Patel has served as the president of the Sun Group of Companies since 2011. He has been a founding team member of The Arena since 2016. He was also co-founder of Creative Caucus in 2016. He has also served as an adjunct professor of business ethics at the NYU Stern School of Business since 2015.

Patel is not the only Indian American to challenge Maloney. In 2010, she faced a well-funded primary challenge from hedge fund lawyer Reshma Saujani, who raised $1.3 million. However, Maloney won the race with 81 percent of the votes to Saujani’s 19 percent.

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