Representative Sean Patrick Maloney’s decision last week to leave behind his current congressional district to campaign for a colleague’s safer seat infuriated fellow Democrats, who saw the actions as unacceptable for the man tasked with protecting their House majority.
On Monday, a progressive New York lawmaker, Alessandra Biaggi, said she would try to stand in his way, channeling the ire of the party’s left wing at the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“I am sure that he will say, ‘This is hurting the party, she doesn’t care about being a Democrat,’” Ms. Biaggi, a state senator from Westchester County, said in an interview. “I am a goddamn proud Democrat. What hurt the party was having the head of the campaign arm not stay in his district, not maximize the number of seats New York can have to hold the majority.”
Ms. Biaggi plans to formally announce her candidacy for the Aug. 23 primary on Tuesday.
She had already been running for Congress in the nearby Third District, campaigning against a “lack of urgency in Washington” and for policies like single-payer health care. But when a state court finalized new lines on Friday that removed the Westchester portions of the district, Ms. Biaggi decided to switch course.
Ms. Biaggi called Mr. Maloney “a selfish corporate Democrat.” She drew a straight line between her campaign and his recently announced decision to abandon much of his current territory in the Hudson Valley to run in a safer, reconfigured 17th Congressional District currently represented by a Black progressive.
Democrats across the political spectrum decried the move last week, when it looked like it might force Representative Mondaire Jones into a primary fight with either Mr. Maloney or Representative Jamaal Bowman, a fellow Black progressive in a neighboring seat. Instead, Mr. Jones chose to avoid the conflict altogether, announcing a campaign for an open seat miles away in New York City.
But Democrats in the party’s progressive wing, some of whom had considered calling for Mr. Maloney’s resignation, are not ready to let him off the hook, and are lining up behind Ms. Biaggi.
“Biaggi has been a voice for justice since she entered the State Senate,” Mr. Bowman said in an interview. “She’s also been a voice for accountability and pushing our party to do better.”
He called Mr. Maloney’s decision to leave the 18th District he has long represented — which could swing to Republicans in the fall — “completely unacceptable for a leader of our party whose job it is to make sure that we maintain the majority.”
“Leadership requires sacrifice and leadership requires selflessness,” said Mr. Bowman, who defeated another high-ranking Democrat in a 2020 primary.
It would not be the first time Ms. Biaggi, 36, has taken on an established Democratic leader.
She was first elected to the State Senate in 2018, when she was the face of a wave of younger lawmakers who toppled six conservative Democratic incumbents who had helped lead the chamber through a power-sharing agreement with Republicans. In her victory over Jeffrey D. Klein, a former leader of the breakaway group known as the Independent Democratic Conference, Ms. Biaggi was outspent nearly 10 to one.
But the odds could be even higher this time around.
Mr. Maloney, 55, will enter the race with far more money, name recognition and institutional party support. The fifth-term congressman had more than $2 million in the bank at the end of March, and, given his ties as a party leader, could easily marshal far more in outside support if needed. (Ms. Biaggi said she had about $200,000 in her campaign account.)
Though Democrats have complained about Mr. Maloney running in a district that contains about 70 percent of Mr. Jones’s current constituents, the party chairman does live within the new lines. Ms. Biaggi does not live in the newly shaped district, nor does her current Westchester State Senate District overlap with the new seat.
And while Mr. Maloney has attracted ire from fellow New York Democrats, he maintains the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mia Ehrenberg, a campaign spokeswoman for Mr. Maloney, touted his record and said that the congressman would work hard to win voters’ support.
“Representative Maloney has served the Hudson Valley for nearly a decade, spending every day fighting for working families, good jobs, and to protect the environment,” she said.