Suraj Patel — an attorney, activist and business ethics lecturer at New York University — is embarking on his third run in Congressional District 12 against incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney, to whom he lost by under four percentage points in 2020. This time around, Patel believes that voters are itching for change.
“This is a brand new district, it’s a new decade,” he said. “The next decade’s going to require leaders who are energized and ready to roll up their sleeves and come up with practical solutions to our problems, not just slogans — and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Patel made his current run official on February 14, launching his campaign with a tour of local businesses on the Upper West Side from West 74th Street and Columbus Avenue proceeding southward — a block-wide strip that now falls within District 12, after newly-drawn congressional maps (which will last the next ten years) were approved by Governor Kathy Hochul at the start of the month. He’s up not only against Maloney, who was first elected in 1992, but also Rana Abdelhamid, who’s gained endorsements from former gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon and NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera since launching her campaign in April of last year.
Patel’s vision for the district includes supporting science and innovation to address global issues like climate change and boosting the economy post-COVID-19, with more jobs and an emphasis on healthcare. “We need to build a better New York for everyone,” he said. “I know the promise this country holds and I want everyone to share in it.”
A Changing Tide
Patel’s parents emigrated from India before he was born; they ran a bodega and his father went to work for the MTA. “Honestly, they’re living the American Dream,” Patel said. He has prior experience working on former President Barack Obama’s campaigns and as a volunteer attorney for the ACLU.
Patel first ran against Maloney in 2018, losing to the longtime congresswoman by under 9,000 votes; in 2020, their race was closer with a difference of only a bit more than 3,000 votes. That second primary race concluded in court with a legal battle over 12,500 votes that were never counted, according to Patel. “We changed how ballots are designed, distributed, and counted,” he said.
This year, new maps put forward by leaders in Albany have changed the shape of the district. In Manhattan, District 12 now includes a block-wide portion of the Upper West Side along Central Park, in addition to parts of Chelsea, the West Village, Greenwich Village and SoHo further south, all neighborhoods that previously fell more squarely within Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s District 10.
As a whole, the new state maps have been controversial, eliciting attention for seemingly exhibiting gerrymandering in favor of Democrats. Maloney told NY1 that her district, District 12, was “drawn to reflect communities of interest.” Patel is skeptical of the integrity of the District 12 map, noting more generally his belief that “voters should choose their politicians and not the other way around.”
As for how the changes impact his approach this year, compared to in years past? “I look forward to introducing myself to those voters” who are new to District 12 and have never before had the opportunity to vote for Maloney or for himself, Patel said, adding that voters on the West Side are “some of the most discerning in the world.”
Some say the third time’s the charm. For Patel, only time will tell; he’s got until June 28, the day of the primary election, to campaign for his fate. “We have a plan to win,” he said. “We’ve done this before.”
“This is a brand new district, it’s a new decade.” Congressional Candidate in District 12 Suraj Patel