NEW YORK ― In the final days of the Democratic primary in New York’s 10th Congressional District, progressive candidates and activists pummeled Dan Goldman in the hopes of stalling his momentum.
Goldman’s more left-leaning opponents branded him a flip-flopper on abortion policy and a “conservative Democrat” whose investment of $4 million of his own money amounted to an effort to “buy” the election.
But after narrowly defeating New York state Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou in a 12-person race for the Democratic nomination on Aug. 23, Goldman is trying to build a bridge to the left rather than dwell on his grievances with them.
“I am very well aware that we got 26% of the vote,” Goldman told HuffPost in an interview on Sept. 12. “I am excited about reaching out to many people, who may not have supported me, to see if we can work together.”
Goldman, a former federal prosecutor and heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune who led House Democrats’ impeachment of then-President Donald Trump in 2019, made it clear that progressive New Yorkers are at the top of his outreach list.
“In a short campaign where I endured false attacks, I am excited to share my progressive values and ideals with so many in this district who I believe have a misconception of who I am and where I’m coming from,” he said. “My first order of business is to do that outreach, and I’ve already started to do it.”
Goldman said he is already speaking to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander on a regular basis. Lander, one of the city’s most influential progressives and a resident of the 10th District, did not endorse anyone in the primary but subsequently revealed to HuffPost that he had voted for Niou.
“There isn’t anybody that I’m not reaching out to, any groups that I’m not reaching out to,” Goldman said. “I look forward to sitting down with the Working Families Party and finding what I believe to be a lot of common ground to work together as we go forward.”
Goldman still has a general election to win against Republican nominee Benine Hamdan. But in a lower Manhattan and Brooklyn-based district where President Joe Biden received 85% of the 2020 vote, that race is expected to be little more than a formality.
Goldman said he has already begun helping raise funds for other Democratic candidates with more competitive general elections. He is committed to pitching in significantly to help Democrats hold the U.S. House and to help New York Democrats maintain their supermajorities in the state Assembly and the state Senate.
Among his primary rivals, Goldman said, he had already spoken with New York City Council member Carlina Rivera, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman and New York state Assembly member Jo Anne Simon. Simon formally endorsed Goldman on Monday. Rivera and Goldman have been in touch as part of their shared relief efforts for residents of the Jacob Riis Houses, a public housing development whose residents were mistakenly informed in late August that their drinking water contained arsenic.
Goldman had not heard from Niou or Rep. Mondaire Jones, who formed a united front to attack Goldman in the final week of the primary race.
Niou considered running on the Working Families Party ballot line against Goldman in the general election but decided against it.
Asked whether he would like to have Niou’s endorsement, Goldman said, “I don’t really care.”
“I’m more interested in getting the endorsement and the support of groups that I am going to have a continuing and ongoing working relationship with,” he said. “And Yuh-Line will be out of office after this term.”
In an interview with New York magazine, Niou would not say whether she plans to reach out to Goldman but implied that she would be receptive to hearing from him. “I am a public servant. I still have an office available,” she said. “But nobody’s reached out to me yet.”
After HuffPost published this article, Niou responded to Goldman’s remarks with a statement.
“I hope Dan Goldman realizes as a representative and a public servant that one should have an ‘continuing and ongoing working relationship’ with all constituents (even those that can’t vote) and that everyone in the district, even folks they don’t agree with, should be provided services and access and transparency ... even/especially non-elected officials,” she said.
Ironically, Goldman agrees with Niou on one of the most contentious issues in the district. Both Democrats oppose approving the construction of Haven Green, an affordable housing development for LGBTQ seniors in lower Manhattan that would be built in a lot now occupied by the Elizabeth Street Garden.
“I have said I don’t think we should be pitting green space against affordable housing. And that both are too scarce in this city,” Goldman said. “We should be taking every step possible not to sacrifice one for the other.”
Goldman expressed optimism that a neighborhood governing body had already identified a more suitable site for the building. If such a site still proved unworkable, he said, “we’d have to reassess.”
On at least two other hot-button housing policy questions, Goldman declined to outline his position. Asked whether he agrees with the real estate industry’s criticism of a 2019 state law strengthening rent regulations and whether there should be greater restrictions on private equity firms’ ownership of rental properties, Goldman said, “I don’t want to comment before I understand it.”
Of course, Goldman elicited progressive scrutiny for other reasons during the campaign. Among other departures from left-wing orthodoxy, he opposed “Medicare for All” and was skeptical of canceling student loan debt.
Now Goldman downplays those differences. Unlike, say, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Goldman would not describe his win as a victory for mainstream Democrats and a defeat for more hard-line progressive ideology.
“What I found during the campaign is people got very hung up on semantics and less about the fact that we are all ― every single top candidate in this race ― seeking broadly the same objectives.”
“To the extent that [the outcome] is a reflection of anything, it is a recognition of the importance of our democratic values and foundations to everything else that we want to accomplish,” Goldman said. “And it is also a reflection of the desire of many, including many Democrats, who want to see results.”
“What I found during the campaign is people got very hung up on semantics and less about the fact that we are all ― every single top candidate in this race ― seeking broadly the same objectives,” he added. “And the question is: How can we get to a place where every American has access to free health care? How can we get to a place where climate change is reducing, not increasing? How can we get to a place where we are providing more affordable housing and lowering rents? How can we get to a place where we’re expanding access to abortion, where we’re increasing gun control? We all believe in that.”
Goldman also said he approved of Biden’s cancellation of the first $10,000 in student debt held by people earning less than $125,000 a year.
“It’s a good first step, in part because the disparate impact of the student loan crisis on poor, underserved, minority communities is addressed most substantially by the first $10,000 of student debt relief,” Goldman said. “But I think that we need to continue to do more to ensure that those who have suffered from predatory lending schemes by for-profit institutions and others who were not provided full and accurate information receive the relief that they deserve.”
He supports making community colleges free to address the rising cost of a college degree. But he did not respond when asked about reexamining the income tax exemption afforded to nonprofit private universities that boast multibillion-dollar endowments and continue to increase tuition year after year.
The biggest error of Goldman’s campaign was creating ambiguity about exactly where he stood on abortion rights in an interview with the Orthodox Jewish news outlet Hamodia. He implied that he was fine with state governments prohibiting abortion after the point of fetal viability ― but walked it back moments later after consulting with an aide.
Many of Goldman’s rivals attacked him for the remarks, though none more so than Jones, who cast doubt on Goldman’s pro-choice credentials in TV and digital ads.
I asked Goldman whether he thought those attacks hurt him and contributed to the narrowness of his win.
“It’s possible,” he said. “What everybody says about negative attacks is that it hurts the target but it also hurts the proponent of them, and I think that probably happened to some extent here.”
Goldman again clarified that, in the Hamodia interview, he had been trying to articulate a legal opinion about what kinds of state laws were permissible under the legal framework of the U.S. Supreme Court’s now-overturned Roe v. Wade decision that had established a Constitutional right to abortion. One such law, he noted, is the Reproductive Health Act, which Democrats in the New York state legislature adopted in 2019.
“If we are talking normatively, it should just be a decision made for the woman and her doctor, under the best medical advice, not what the government says should or should not happen,” he said. “But if we are presented with legislation that is based on legal standards set forth in Roe ― [prohibiting abortion after fetal viability] with exceptions for the health of the mother and the health of the baby ― then I would not object to that and I would vote for it.”
Currently, New York state prohibits abortion after fetal viability unless the life or health of the mother is threatened. Goldman said he would support legislation that allows abortion without exceptions.
Finally, Goldman would not say whether his self-funding made his victory possible. He insisted that he was operating within the confines of the current system and that he supports a complete overhaul of campaign-finance laws, including through the adoption of public financing.
“The money in politics is, broadly speaking, corrupting, and we should do everything that we can to get rid of it,” Goldman said.
“I actually think self-funding is probably the least of the problems, because I’m not beholden to any special interest groups,” he added. “I’m not beholden to any donors. The only people that I’m beholden to are the voters.”