Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney stands by her record. She’s been in office for more than two decades and is staking her 2020 congressional reelection campaign on bills passed, rivals defeated and agencies regulated.
Maloney says that she is proud to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District, but three candidates are vying to replace her by criticizing the very record on which she runs. Her opponents—Lauren Ashcraft, Peter Harrison and Suraj Patel—have questioned Maloney’s lack of progressive bonafides, including her decision to take corporate money to fund her campaign.
With little less than a week before the June 23rd Democratic primary, Greenpointers spoke with Maloney about campaign finance regulation, her involvement in recent protests against police brutality in the city and the issues she thinks most affect North Brooklyners.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
To voters who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?
I’m the mother of two wonderful daughters, and I’m a widow. I’ve been representing this district since 1992. I first ran and defeated a Republican, Bill Green. I helped change the whole east side of Manhattan from Republican to Democrat.
Why are you running for reelection?
I believe that public service is the best job that anyone can have. If it is done honestly and done well, it can improve people’s lives. It’s my record that I’m running on. Recently, I was just endorsed by The New York Times and The New York Daily News. And I was rated number one in congressional leadership by GovTrack.
Also, I have recently been elected by my peers to be chair of the Oversight Committee. With this position, I will have even a more powerful, stronger voice.
Your three opponents have emphasized that they don’t take any corporate PAC money. Why do you take money from corporations?
I am the only one of the people running that has actually done anything to take corporate money out of campaigns. I am a sponsor of HR1. That bill, among other things, calls for public funding of campaigns. I am devoted to making that happen.
When I was on the City Council, I authored and passed the best and toughest campaign finance law in the nation. Since then, the City Council has made that law even tougher.
I am the only candidate that Wall Street and big banks financed a candidate against in 2010, and she ran on the program that I was too tough on big banks and Wall Street. This was after I passed a landmark bill that President Obama signed into law called the Credit Card Holder’s Bill of Rights. I won that race and I hope that my record in Congress continues to merit that support.
The 12th Congressional District cuts across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. What do you think is the most pressing issue here in North Brooklyn? What do you think is most important in Greenpoint?
I would say affordable housing, and that is why I am on the Financial Services Committee. We got a bill in the HEROES Act. This particular bill created a $100 million fund to help keep tenants in their homes. We passed that, and it is now in the Senate. I also wrote to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that we should have a moratorium on any mortgage foreclosures or evictions on government-financed homes. That policy was approved.
I would secondly say the environment. I have done several things to help Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
When I was first elected in 1992, we had an incinerator then. It was causing a lot of spills. I called for the first federal hearing ever to come to Greenpoint and Williamsburg on whether or not this incinerator met safety codes. They were violating every environmental rule. I closed down the incinerator.
The second thing I did was I moved to get the Newtown Creek declared a Superfund site. I am very proud of that.
Also, when de Blasio was elected, a group of us really worked hard and we were able to buy 125 acres right there to create the Bushwick Inlet Park right down on the water.
And I went to work getting money for the Kosciuszko Bridge. It was rated the worst bridge in New York State—the most accidents, the biggest waiting lines. I got $800 million for a $900 million project. We beautified it last year. It’s nine lanes now, and there’s going to be parkland underneath it.
Have you participated in the protests sweeping across the city? What would be your message to protestors in your district?
I have participated in three protests, and then I got sick. One was in Queens in the park over there by water. That was for Breonna Taylor. The other two were for George Floyd.
I would say we are at a unique period, and we must seize this and make a difference. We should bring transformational change to our federal justice system. We cannot let this moment go away without bringing change to our policing policies in our country and in our city. And towards that, I have worked with my colleagues, the leadership from the Congressional Black Caucus. We have come towards a whole package of bills, and you can go to my website and see the package. We’re going to pass this next week.
Is there anything else you’d like to communicate to voters?
I view public service very much like a loan that I must repay each and every day that I’m in office. I listen to my constituents. They told me they wanted to have Newtown Creek be a Superfund site. They told me they wanted Kosciuszko Bridge repaired and modernized. I brought 900 million dollars to the L train that just opened up. About three years ago, we had a sleepout at the park to get the Bushwick Inlet Park that they wanted. Everything that they have told me that they wanted, I have tried to deliver on.
I just love my job. We can pass bills that give people life-saving healthcare. We can pass laws that build parks that make their lives better for generations to come. We can really help people. It’s a great honor and a privilege to have that opportunity to work for them.