Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday endorsed state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s bid to unseat Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the leader of the Democratic Party’s House campaign arm, ahead of their primary clash in a newly drawn district north of New York City.
In an fundraising email to supporters, Ocasio-Cortez touted Biaggi as a progressive champion poised for the “competitive and expensive” race ahead.
“She’s running against a well-funded opponent, Sean Patrick Maloney, who also happens to be the chairman of the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee),” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Alessandra has been here before – she knows what it takes to go up against powerful opponents and win.”
Biaggi was first elected to the New York state Senate in 2018 after defeating former state Sen. Jeff Klein, who had led a breakaway group of Democratic lawmakers who, in caucusing with Republicans, ceded a potential majority. The backlash ultimately helped vault Biaggi past Klein, ending his political career. Ocasio-Cortez, who won her own primary victory over then-Rep. Joe Crowley in June 2018, first campaigned with Biaggi that year.
Now, their alliance is aimed at making them colleagues on Capitol Hill – a result that would register as a resounding blow for the Democratic left in what has quickly become a fraught primary season pitting national leaders and organizations like the DCCC against progressive challengers like Jamie McLeod-Skinner in Oregon and Jessica Cisneros in Texas.
In an interview Tuesday, Biaggi called Ocasio-Cortez the “standard-bearer for the progressive wing of the party” and said her endorsement was “a clear signal that we are the campaign that is actually fighting for working people.”
“It’s a huge deal and it’s also another indication of not just how brave she is, but how strongly she stays true to her values,” Biaggi said of Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to jump into the hot button race.
Maloney drew the ire of progressives and even some moderate Democrats when he decided to leave his modestly redrawn district to run in the new 17th, a safer seat that includes his home but had largely been the territory of Rep. Mondaire Jones.
Ocasio-Cortez at the time called on Maloney to “step aside” from his DCCC role if he decided to run against Jones. But a clash of incumbents was averted when Jones announced plans to seek an open seat in the newly drawn 10th Congressional District, which includes parts of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Biaggi’s initial plans were also disrupted by the protracted redistricting process.
She announced late last month, following the approval of a new map written by an independent “special master” that replaced one drawn up by Democratic state lawmakers, that she would drop her bid for an open seat in a district that covered parts of Long Island and Westchester County to take on Maloney.
In a statement Tuesday, Maloney touted his local support – “including endorsements from nearly 40 elected leaders and Democratic Party committees” – and sought to steer clear of criticizing Ocasio-Cortez.
“I respect Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and have worked with her on a number of policy matters, including as a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal,” Maloney said. “But, on her endorsement, we are going to have to agree to disagree.”
Biaggi said she was confident that, with the district lines now settled, her campaign would be able to tap into the grassroots progressive energy that began crackle in 2018 and then helped elected Jones in 2020.
Voters in the district “were very happy being represented by Mondaire Jones. Now they’re angry that he’s not going to be there, but they’re excited that there is a progressive candidate, myself, that they can get behind,” she said. “And so that is the place where we have begun to build our coalition.”