NY 18th Congressional District Race Is Set
The congressional primary elections Tuesday decided November ballots in several contests, including in New York’s 18th District. A Democratic congressman seeking re-election to a third term faces a Republican who has never run for office, but who is no stranger to politics.
Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney is seeking re-election to a third term and faces Republican Phil Oliva. Oliva, a Westchester County resident, defeated filmmaker Kenneth Del Vecchio in the GOP primary. The 18th District includes Orange and Putnam Counties and parts of Dutchess and Westchester, and is considered a swing district, as Oliva points out.
“It’s changed hands three times since 2006. It’s the ultimate swing district,” Oliva says. “The Cook Political Report rates it as an even, not plus one, minus one, whatever, it is, the partisan index is even.”
Maloney beat former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth in 2012. It was a tight race. A rematch in 2014 proved even closer. Oliva serves as senior advisor to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2014, but says he’s running on his own merits, not the county executive’s.
“Rob’s popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into popularity for me. Some people know me in Westchester, but I’m relatively unknown,” Oliva says. "I’m making my case. I’m not running on the fact that I have some political experience. I’m running on the fact that I have a lot of experience in a lot of different things — public sector, private sector, health care. I have an MBA, started up businesses, I’m a father of three, I can relate. I grew up working class in the Bronx.”
“I’m running because I think the country’s heading in the wrong direction,” Oliva says. “I think our current congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, is out of touch with the needs of the district. That’s what I’ve been hearing.”
Maloney, who lives in Putnam County, says he plans to stay focused on his job and keep the political season at bay for as long as possible.
“I think the best thing I can do is just get results for the people who sent me to Washington. I know I have a two-year contract. I have to earn it every day. I take that very seriously and I’m very proud of my record of results. We passed 31 bills through the House of Representatives in three years. That’s pretty good for a sophomore in the minority. And I’ve passed 17 of those bills into law as well, things like helping our farmers, helping our veterans, rebuilding our infrastructure, making our trains safer,” Maloney says. “To me, that’s the best politics is do the work. That’s what I hear from people so that’s what I’m going to do and we’ll let the election take care of itself.”
The neighboring 19th District, where primaries have yielded a race between Republican John Faso and Democrat Zephyr Teachout, also makes the tossup category. And it’s a category David Hawkings, senior editor of Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, terms unique. Hawkings recently spoke on WAMC’s Congressional Corner.
“The people of the North County, upstate New York and New England are living in a unique part of the country, which is to say, there are, I think there are three congressional districts in upstate New York that CQ Roll calls races as tossups, all bumped up next to each other up there,” Hawkings says. “And there’s no other place like that in the country where there are three congressional districts all connected where they could go either way for Congress. And upstate New York has been that way for this entire decade.”
Meanwhile, Oliva talks about self-imposed term limits.
“And I said that if I’m elected I pledge to serve no more than four, two-year terms because I’m not looking to be a career politician,” Oliva says. “I’m looking to get some things done for the district, get the county back on the right track and then come home.”
Oliva says he looks forward to debates and discussions with his opponent.