It’s been obvious for a while that Carolyn Maloney was torn by conflicting impulses, and now she has opted for the pragmatic choice, surrendering her Senate ambition for the security of her House seat.
Her decision is sure to disappoint the liberal activists who want Kirsten Gillibrand to face a credible primary challenge, and the eager pols on Manhattan’s East Side who’ve been salivating at the prospect of an open Congressional seat.
Maloney clearly wanted to run and believed herself to be the rightful heir to Hillary Clinton’s seat, but what could she do? The most powerful Democrats in Washington and New York made it clear that propping up Gillibrand is their priority. The polls might have been close, but the playing field would be ridiculously tilted in the appointed incumbent’s favor.
And Maloney wouldn’t have just been risking an embarrassing defeat by running; her entire career would have been on the line. There’d be no returning to her House seat in defeat and, at 62, she’d get no second chance for a Senate campaign. It would have been an all-or-nothing gamble, and the odds wouldn’t have been good.
By backing down, Maloney will preserve her House seat and her seniority on the Financial Services Committee. It’s not as flashy as the Senate, but she could end up chairing the committee someday, and that’s not bad either. It’s certainly preferable to being knocked out of politics for good next year.
It’s been more than a decade since New York Democrats last enjoyed a competitive Senate primary. For a while, it looked like the streak would end in 2010. Now it looks safe. (Very safe.)