March 3, 2024
NEW YORK — A lesser-known candidate hoping to make inroads in New York's 12th Congressional District is often eclipsed by Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney — at times even at his own events.

NEW YORK — A lesser-known candidate hoping to make inroads in New York’s 12th Congressional District is often eclipsed by Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney — at times even at his own events.

Suraj Patel, 39, is attempting to bill himself as a fresh face to represent an increasingly young and diverse New York City. He stitches together what he calls an “Obama coalition” of uneasy allies, championing liberal values on race, climate change, and abortion access while touting the unlikely support of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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Suraj Patel talks to voters at his ice cream truck rally in midtown Manhattan.
Carly Roman/Washington Examiner

But Nadler and Maloney, who have both cut national profiles as high-ranking members of Congress in office since the 1990s, loom large over his efforts, with the candidate himself referencing the two lawmakers when asked about his closing message for voters.

“One campaign is talking about the future. Two campaigns are talking about the past. They’re bickering, and elections ought to be about the future,” Patel told the Washington Examiner at his Sunday ice cream truck rally on 59th Street and First Avenue.

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Suraj Patel holds an ice cream truck rally in midtown Manhattan.
Carly Roman/Washington Examiner

The rally, originally scheduled to take place three blocks and one avenue away, attracted a handful of Nadler supporters and one Maloney supporter, who handed out literature as the group migrated toward the event’s new location at the behest of Patel’s mother, Nayna Patel, who said she was “very proud” of her son as she stood curbside distributing flyers.

“Hello, Nadler folks!” the Maloney supporter said as she offered them a handout.

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Jerry Nadler supporters sit on a bench as supporters await Suraj Patel’s arrival at the originally scheduled location of 56th Street and Second Avenue.
Carly Roman/Washington Examiner

The top portion of Patel’s campaign literature also obliquely referenced his opponents under the header “The incumbents have had their chance.”

“Abortion. Guns. Climate. 1990’s Democrats have lost every major battle to Republicans and Mitch McConnell. Instead of fighting for us, they have used their positions to hold onto power,” his handout said, arguing the incumbents are “more concerned with holding onto power than using it” and “pushed to gerrymander their districts in their favor, discriminating by age and race.”

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Even at the site of a Patel rally, the presence of Nadler and Maloney looms large.
Carly Roman/Washington Examiner

Patel hopes his accessibility and optimism will help him rise above the fray, condemning the “dark money and mudslinging” that is “flinging around” between the two members of Congress.

“We are witnessing what happens when power protects power and power cannot let go. Two campaigns are either hiding or bickering about who gets more credit for 1992 or 1998,” Patel said at a Monday press conference, noting in a raspy voice that he has averaged roughly 20,000 steps per day and has “no voice left” after the grueling campaign.

“We’re not a hide-the-candidate campaign,” Patel spokesman Eric Koch told the Washington Examiner.


While Nadler has leaned into his high national profile as the “general counsel of the Resistance” who spearheaded both impeachment efforts against former President Donald Trump and Maloney has highlighted her local infrastructure victories for New York City, Patel has attempted to occupy dual lanes, stressing both the national policy platform he offers, as well as his local New York bona fides.

“The Day One agenda is to make sure that Washington starts to work for New York. It is to tackle our problems here in New York of livability, of inflation, of the cost of housing,” he told the Washington Examiner. “And in Washington, D.C., it’s to rescue our democracy. It is to end gerrymandering, it is to end voter suppression, it’s to finally tackle misinformation on digital and social media, which is threatening to undermine trust in our institutions.”

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Suraj Patel’s friends and family members stand behind his podium at the conclusion of his Campos Plaza press conference on Monday.
Carly Roman/Washington Examiner

Patel, who worked for former President Barack Obama’s campaigns, compared himself to the Democratic leader, attempting to cut a national profile in a race saturated by two congressional heavyweights.

“We have a path to victory by mobilizing an electorate that looks more like a presidential primary electorate. … I got into this race talking about how we need to return to an Obama politics of persuasion,” he said, touting the “big tent” coalition backing his candidacy.

And he countered Maloney’s charge that she scored a local victory for New Yorkers with the opening of the Second Avenue subway line, painting the congresswoman as out of touch because she and Nadler “don’t ride our subways. They don’t ride bikes on these streets. They don’t walk around and see the conditions on our sidewalks.”

“They didn’t build the subway. My father did. He worked on the IRT line in 1988 and 1989 and 1990, which is today the 1-2-3 line,” he said, adding that his family’s ascendance in New York typified the “story of America.”

“When you get on that subway, every New Yorker is asked the same existential question every few weeks: Do you add value, or do you add time? For 30 years, our incumbents have added time. It’s time to elect somebody who is going to add value for you,” he continued.


Standing before a group of roughly 20 of his closest friends and family members, as well as his dogs Peyton and Eli, at the Campos Plaza polling place on 13th Street, Patel invoked “hope and change” to persuade New Yorkers to vote for a new candidate in a primary race that will likely determine who heads to Congress given the district’s partisan voter index of D+68.

“It is 2022. It is not 1992 anymore,” he said.

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