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Democrats in most of northern Westchester and Putnam County’s new 17th Congressional District are faced with a choice that has become emblematic of the party’s internal struggle.
Support five-term Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a party centrist by all accounts who has been representing the 18th Congressional District since his initial victory a decade ago or opt for the progressive in the matchup, two-term state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi.
The court-ordered redistricting threw out the Democratic-dominated state legislature’s heavily gerrymandered districts and replaced it with a court-ordered map. The district includes roughly the northern half of Westchester, Putnam, and small portions of southern Dutchess County, along with Rockland and bits of Orange County on the western side of the Hudson.
Biaggi, a longtime Pelham resident who had announced her bid for the District 3 seat under the initial redistricting, switched when those lines were thrown out. She has since moved to North Castle and announced her District 17 candidacy when she learned that current Rep. Mondaire Jones was moving to the 10th Congressional District in lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn rather than face Maloney or freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in District 16.
“I am absolutely progressive and proud to be progressive,” Biaggi said. “I’m also a Democrat since I was 18 years old and able to register to vote, and I think what it comes to, what really distinguishes me from my opponent is not progressive versus moderate, but who has the independent voice, which I do, who is the one who cares about reform of government and accountability, I do, and who is the one who did not take corporate PAC money.”
Maloney, a Cold Spring resident, and his campaign pointed to nearly a decade of achievements, such as banning oil barge anchorages on the Hudson, delivering billions to the state to protect clean drinking water systems and as a member of House leadership to pass the first gun safety legislation in 28 years.
Adopting the child tax credit helped lift millions of children and their families out of poverty.
“Democrats want us to fight hard and make the tough decisions needed to win this November,” Maloney said.
Maloney said he is committed to reducing inflation to a more acceptable 2 percent average and working to bring gas prices down that will help families survive financially. He noted that the price for a gallon of gas is down nearly a full dollar since June.
A multifaceted approach to keeping gas prices from spiraling out of control includes releases from the strategic petroleum reserve, working with U.S. allies around the world to avoid production shortages and conservation.
Major pieces of the inflation puzzle are to address supply chain issues and getting prescription drug prices under control.
“We’re going to bring down the costs by forcing big drug companies to negotiate prescription drug prices,” Maloney said. “That’s going to happen and that’s going to have a big impact on drug prices and, of course, doing other things to help people with the cost of health insurance.”
Biaggi is an advocate of Medicare for all. She also wants the federal government do its part in increasing the affordable housing stock and properly funding the Section 8 program to help working families. In her first year in the legislature, she supported the 2019 Tenant Protection Act.
In addition, Biaggi wants to make the child tax credit permanent.
Taking bold action to reverse climate change is essential, Biaggi said. She advocates for no new gas hookups and developing and converting to hydro, solar, wind and geothermal, which will create thousands of new jobs.
Democrats must also stay true to their principles and avoid taking money from Big Oil.
“The one thing that we can do to send a signal that we are serious about climate change is not to take one cent from the fossil fuel industry,” Biaggi said.
Both candidates voiced support for the Green New Deal.
One of the reasons why Biaggi ran for state Senate in 2018, she said, was to codify abortion in New York. She was branded by some as an alarmist at the time.
“Some of us had the foresight to believe it was just a matter of time,” she said of the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade.
Codification of abortion, access to contraception and protection of marriage equality must be done at the federal level, Biaggi added.
Maloney said the rollback of Roe gave Democrats a chance to enact legislation for emergency contraception and allowing women to travel across state lines to receive reproductive healthcare. Preservation of marriage equality is also critical, he said.
“People need to understand this MAGA Republican Party and the attack on individual freedom is just beginning,” Maloney said.
He said he wants to strengthen policing by investing in train and technology to help the do their jobs. Maloney took Biaggi to task for calling the police “soulless.”
I think that it’s insulting and it’s wrong,” Maloney said of Biaggi’s comments.
The state senator has also taken heat for her support of New York’s cashless bail for non-violent offenders, which Republicans have charged has significantly contributed to rising crime rates.
But Biaggi was unapologetic. She said the state’s bail reform was about fairness. For those with the money to make bail, they are out on the street for the same offenses, but the poor, many of whom are people of color, were not.
“It’s criminal that Republicans want to use people’s lives for talking points,” Biaggi said. “It’s really a turnoff for me.”
She supports all the major gun legislation reform passed in New York at the federal level, including red flag laws, enhanced background checks and an assault weapons ban.
Both candidates support raising the SALT deduction cap but they will have to fight regional opposition in both parties in low- and moderate tax states before that occurs.
Maloney ripped leading Republican candidate, Assemblyman Michael Lawler, who has repeated charges that Maloney has failed to raise or repeal the SALT cap with a Democratic Congress and President.
“It’s guys like me who have been fighting that tooth and nail,” he said. “We’re going to get that done, with no thanks to Lawler who supports the party that let that get away.”
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Maloney said continued support of Ukraine is critical but so is sharing relevant intelligence with the country and our allies.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/