Sean Patrick Maloney, a gay former aide to President Bill Clinton and New York governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, won his Democratic Congressional primary on Tuesday, earning the right to challenge Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Tea Party-backed Republican with a somewhat moderate reputation on LGBT rights.
Maloney, 45, was the top vote getter in a field of five, taking nearly 50% of the vote with 99% of precincts reporting by the end of the night, according to the Journal News. His opponents included another gay candidate, Matt Alexander, the mayor of Wappingers Falls, who finished third.
Strong fund-raising, an endorsement from Clinton and support from organized labor helped Maloney win in the newly redrawn 18th district, which covers the Hudson Valley north of New York City. The attorney, who is raising three adopted children with his partner, interior designer Randy Florke, only recently moved to the area from Manhattan, but attempts to paint him as a newcomer appeared not to sway voters in the moderate district. He became the first openly gay candidate for statewide office when he ran for attorney general in 2006, but the Congressional campaign focused on economic issues.
“I am running for Congress to represent the needs of a district that is full of good people regardless of political party and that is just like much of America – a place where people work hard, yet lay awake at night and worry; where it’s more and more difficult just to get by, to afford a home, pay the mortgage, educate your kids and raise them in a safe and healthy environment,” he said in his victory speech at a Teamsters Hall on Tuesday night.
National Democrats view the contest in the 18th district as critical to their efforts to win back the House this November. In the general election, Maloney will face Hayworth, a freshman Republican who rode the Tea Party wave into elected office in 2010. The ophthalmologist has distinguished herself from House colleagues by expressing support for some LGBT legislation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Ms. Hayworth, who has a 21-year-old gay son, joined the congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in November, making her one of three Republicans in the largely Democratic group. She's one of six Republicans backing a bill to give the health benefits that same-sex partners receive the same tax treatment as those that straight couples receive.
And the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, said Ms. Hayworth ‘has taken positive steps’ on important issues,” the profile continued.
Hayworth, 52, has not backed legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a move that would cost her the support of the Conservative Party of New York State. She has, however, spoken against bullying and indicated that she believes marriage equality is settled law in New York.
The Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Hayworth in 2010 and a spokesman for the group’s New York chapter said that it was "extremely likely” the national chapter, which makes decisions on Congressional races, would back her again this year. The congresswoman was the guest of honor at the group’s Lincoln Dinner last year.
“We were strong supporters of Nan Hayworth in 2010 and that support is going to continue through Election Day this year and into her second term representing the people of New York in Congress,” said Gregory T. Angelo, chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed Maloney, said that he could help maintain or even grow the LGBT delegation in the House if he wins this November. Rep. Barney Frank, the longest-serving member of the delegation, plans to retire, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin is vying for a U.S. Senate seat. Maloney would be the first openly gay member of Congress form New York.
“Sean has proven he knows how to get things done in Washington,” said Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe in a statement Tuesday. “He’s deeply experienced and absolutely committed to finding ways to put New Yorkers and all Americans back to work. As an openly gay dad, he’ll also be an authentic voice for LGBT families across the country. We’re extremely pleased about tonight’s big win.”