New Times,
New Thinking.

Democrats opt for the tried and true candidates

New York and Florida primaries went well for longtime elected officials and middle-of-the-road prospects.

By Emily Tamkin

WASHINGTON DC – In the most closely watched primary elections on Tuesday 23 August, Democratic voters in New York and Florida decided to go with familiar faces and more comfortably moderate candidates over younger and more progressive choices.

In Florida Charlie Crist won the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Crist, now a Democratic congressman from Florida, has been the state’s governor before – its Republican governor. Democrats in the state appear to believe that Crist, who is running as a centrist and burnishing his nice-guy credentials, will beat Ron DeSantis, the present Republican governor, a hard-right figure who made a name for himself by lambasting “Covid theatre” and who banned schools from teaching students of a certain age about sexual orientation or gender identity. Crist, 66, handily beat Nikki Fried, 44, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, who tried to stand out as an outspoken DeSantis challenger. Florida Democrats also chose the moderate Congresswoman Val Demings, 65, to challenge Senator Marco Rubio for his seat in the fall. And, in fairness, Florida is also poised to send the 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, a progressive activist, to Congress; if elected, he will be the first Gen Z representative.

Republicans weren’t without noteworthy moments in Florida on Tuesday, either: the far-right candidate Laura Loomer lost her primary to Congressman Daniel Webster. She then falsely claimed it was the result of voter fraud.

Meanwhile, in New York, Congressman Jerry Nadler, 75, will continue his three decades in the House of Representatives. Nadler, of New York’s West Side, was pitted against Carolyn Maloney, 76, who has served for around the same amount of time, representing the city’s East Side. Their districts had been redrawn and both refused to drop out of the race, which meant they had to run against each other and Suraj Patel, 38, who had also run against Maloney twice before and was insistent that it was time for a younger representative in Washington. Ultimately, the voters of New York’s 12th district settled on sending Nadler back; though it was only a primary, the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of the district means he’ll be returning to Congress.

In the primary for New York’s 10th district Daniel Goldman, a former prosecutor who was heavily involved in both of Donald Trump’s presidential impeachment hearings (and is heir to the Levi Strauss & Co fortune), narrowly beat Yuh-Line Niou, a member of the New York State Assembly. In a crowded race, Niou stood out as a progressive choice but Goldman, described in the press as the most moderate of all candidates, managed a narrow victory.

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The results will be picked and pored over, and, certainly, all of these districts are different (as are Florida and New York). But one top line, at least, is that Tuesday was a good night to be a longtime elected official, a middle-of-the-road candidate, or both.

“Tonight, mainstream won,” said Sean Patrick Maloney, a congressman and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who won in New York’s 17th congressional district, defeating the New York State senator Alessandra Biaggi. Of his own district and elsewhere, he wasn’t wrong.

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