Goldman, a first-time candidate and heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. clothing fortune who contributed $4 million to his own campaign, triumphed over a crowded field of competitors in the Democratic primary for New York’s 10th Congressional District on Tuesday. His experience as an antagonist to Trump resonated with primary voters who still see the former president as an existential threat.
Goldman had declared himself the victor Tuesday night, before the election was called by The Associated Press at nearly 1 a.m. Wednesday. When he declared the win, however, his nearest rival, Yuh-Line Niou, refused to concede.
“It’s one of those rare districts where voters actually do care about democracy and impeachment,” Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist and district resident, told HuffPost earlier this month. “The district has strong ‘Resistance Democrat’ vibes.”
Will Schmidt, a real estate broker in the West Village, met that description. He said he voted for Goldman because of “how he led the hearings and the impeachment trial.”
“I thought it was extremely professional,” he said. “It’s really nice to be able to vote for somebody who’s obviously smart.”
Goldman also benefited from his career as a legal commentator on MSNBC.
“When he goes on MSNBC, I’m always interested in what he has to say,” Schmidt said. “Having somebody who is a very experienced lawyer is probably good in these times because that’s probably what we’re all going to need for the next five years.”
Goldman is due to face Republican nominee Benine Hamdan, a risk analyst, in November. But in a heavily Democratic new seat encompassing lower Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, Goldman’s primary win all but assures him a place in Congress come January.
Goldman is a business-friendly liberal who opposes left-wing priorities like “Medicare for All,” student debt cancellation and Supreme Court expansion. His victory is a disappointment for progressives who hoped to capitalize on a rare opening in the New York City congressional map.
The packed nature of the field ― there were 12 candidates ― played to Goldman’s advantage, however. The most competitive alternatives to Goldman ― New York Assembly members Niou and Jo Anne Simon, New York City Council member Carlina Rivera and Rep. Mondaire Jones ― all remained in the race until the very end. (Former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped out in late July.)
In addition, a super PAC funded by a group aligned with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee helped weaken Niou, Goldman’s most competitive rival. The group, New York Progressive, spent $395,000 blasting Niou for opposing an affordable housing development and expressing sympathy for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The AIPAC-aligned super PAC only admitted its involvement after the results came in on Tuesday night.
Goldman made at least one unforced error when he suggested in a July interview that he was fine with state governments restricting abortion at the point of fetal viability. He walked it back almost immediately, but his opponents seized on the comments as evidence of his unreliability on a core Democratic priority.
Efforts to build a united front against Goldman nonetheless came too little, too late. Jones and Niou held a joint news conference on Aug. 15 calling for voters to back “anyone but Goldman.” Jones, the only Goldman opponent with significant money to spend, began advertising against Goldman, whom he dubbed a “conservative Democrat.”
Rivera and another contender, former Rep. Liz Holtzman, also held a news conference to blast Goldman this past Friday. But no candidate was willing to drop out and endorse a competitor in the interest of stopping Goldman.
Many observers believe that the contest effectively ended when the New York Times editorial board endorsed Goldman on Aug. 13, the day that early voting began. The newspaper, which enjoys major influence in the more educated and affluent parts of New York’s 10th District, vouched for his abortion rights credentials.
“Thanks to his work on the impeachment trial, he already has close working relationships in Washington — an advantage that should help him deliver on the issues most important to New Yorkers, even as a new member of Congress,” the editorial board wrote. “That includes abortion rights, which he has made clear he will passionately defend.”
The contest for New York’s 10th District was one of the most contentious races of a chaotic New York primary season that Democrats of all ideological stripes would just as soon put behind them.
Democrats in New York’s state legislature had originally drawn a congressional map that would have provided them a partisan advantage and protected incumbents while creating new opportunities for several young candidates to run.
But Republicans successfully challenged the map in court. The state’s highest court ruled in late April that the congressional map ― and a state Senate map Democrats drew ― violated a 2014 amendment to the state Constitution barring the redrawing of district boundaries for the benefit of a specific party.
When a court-appointed “special master” unveiled the first draft of new, nonpartisan congressional district boundaries in May, the state’s congressional Democrats began a contentious game of musical chairs. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee whose home was drawn into New York’s 17th Congressional District, announced plans to run in New York’s 17th – even though it is currently represented by Jones.
Jones initially protested but ultimately decided to run in New York’s 10th District, where he began with a cash advantage over his rivals that enabled him to advertise on television first. But Jones, who moved from White Plains, New York, to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, struggled to overcome the skepticism of voters wary of his lack of ties to the district.
Jones’ departure from Congress after one term is a significant loss for the activist left, which looked to him as a champion of their causes who had an open line of communication with House Democratic leadership.
“He is a bright star. I hope regardless of what he does next, it’s contributing to the future of our party,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a progressive strategist in New York City. “We need his perspective to go forward.”