Last night during the Democratic primary debate, incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney defended her past anti-crime bill and vaccination bills unearthed by challenger Suraj Patel’s campaign as the two compete for the 12th congressional district in New York.
Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) is seeking reelection for her 14th term in Congress, which includes Long Island City in Queens, Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s East Side. Patel, who has no previous experience at an elected office, is a 34-year-old with vast experience as a professor, hotel executive, and a practicing lawyer.
During the debate, Patel criticized Maloney’s support for the 1994 crime bill, which is credited for the increase of mass incarceration in America, contrasting his outspoken support for legalizing marijuana and lessening marijuana convictions.
Maloney admitted her regret for the bill whilst explaining most of the Democrats also voted for that bill. “I think that we have evolved as a nation and seen that it doesn’t work. We have more research now that shows that having strict mandatory sentences does not deter crime; it does not solve the problem. I regret that vote,” said Maloney.
Maloney retaliated by questioning Patel’s ethics, referring to reports in the New York Daily News about Patel claiming homestead tax exemption for Indiana residents, suspiciously overlapping his 12-year residency at East Village.
Patel responded that the tax exemption was a mistake and that he is not claiming it still.
On that same day, Patel’s campaign sent 50,000 mailers across the district criticizing her sponsorship for anti-vaccination bills, vote against Obama’s Iran Deal, vote for the 3-strike life sentence for drug charges, and vote for repeal of big bank regulations after taking corporate PAC money.
The mailer quotes Maloney’s comments in a Congressional hearing in 2012 about the potential link between autism and vaccination, a popular theory for anti-vaccination activist that is discredited by the scientific community.
“The verbal evidence seems so strong from so many people, that they had a healthy child until they got vaccinated,” a comment by Maloney quoted on the mailer.
Maloney’s spokesperson criticized Patel’s campaign for using Maloney’s comments out of context, citing her past statements for support for vaccinations and her co-sponsored legislation that determined whether exposure to vaccination is associated with autism spectrum disorders, chronic conditions, or other neurological conditions.
“Patel promised a new style of politics but it turns out he’s not that new — shopping for a district to run in, taking tax breaks and mortgages for houses outside the 12th district, and, now, campaigning with out-of-context quotes and negativity. It looks like he’ll say or do almost anything to try and win an election,” spokesman Bob Liff said in a statement to POLITICO.