New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloneythe head of House Democrats’ campaign arm responsible for protecting vulnerable incumbents in his party, has conceded his race in a phone call to Republican Mike Lawler, a spokesperson for Maloney’s campaign said Wednesday morning.
NBC News has not yet made a projection in the race.
More than anything, Maloney’s defeat would represent a symbolic victory for the GOP, particularly given that Democrats appeared to limit significant losses and dodge a “red wave” that many Republicans had predicted.
Maloney’s concession comes after Democratic super PACs and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that Maloney leads launched a last-minute rescue mission to try to save him by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race in the final two weeks of the campaign.
Maloney, who had been traveling the country campaigning and raising cash for vulnerable colleagues, had to rush back to his Hudson Valley district to fight for his own political survival.
But in the end, Maloney doesn’t appear to have been able to stave off an avalanche of GOP spending and attack ads from Lawler, a state assemblyman, which cast the Democrat as weak on crime for his past support for ending cash bail for those in prison.
“Mike’s victory just sent SHOCKWAVES across the country as he FIRED failed DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney!!” GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., tweeted early Wednesday morning.
At an election night party in Washington overnight, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy also piled on: “In New York, we defeated the Democrat campaign chairman, Sean Patrick Maloney, which will be the first time in over 40 years a DCCC chair lost his reelection.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanked Maloney in a statement of her own Wednesday, crediting him with helping House Democrats to exceed expectations Tuesday and calling him “an outstanding leader of the DCCC.”
“Republicans may have gained a Pyrrhic victory with this race because it has clearly come at the expense of other possible Republican wins,” Pelosi said.
Maloney’s ouster will have larger implications for the House Democratic Caucus: It closes the door on a possible bid by Maloney for a second term as DCCC chairman. And it will reignite a fierce debate among House Democrats about whether one of their vulnerable members should be put in charge of the campaign operation.
Two years ago, Democrats, in the home stretch of the campaign, had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend then-DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos of Illinois, another “frontline” member like Maloney. She survived her race for re-election but opted to retire just months later, ceding her seat in the Quad Cities to Republicans.
Two California Democrats, Reps. Tony Cardenas and Ami Bera, have previously expressed interest in running for DCCC chairman in the 2024 cycle. Cardenas narrowly lost to Maloney in the race for campaign chairman two years ago, and Bera served as one of Maloney’s top lieutenants at the DCCC, in charge of protecting vulnerable incumbents.
Cardenas represents a deep blue district in Southern California, while Bera has been targeted by Republicans in his Sacramento-area district.
Maloney, a former aide in the Clinton White House, made history in 2012 as the first openly gay person elected to Congress from New York.
But he drew ire from fellow Democrats earlier this year, after New York’s redistricting process when he decided to run in a neighboring district, the 17th, that was slightly more friendly to Democrats than his old 18th district. That decision forced freshman Rep. Mondary JonesD-N.Y., one of the first openly gay Black men in Congress, to run in a district miles away in New York City, where Jones failed to win his party’s primary.
Moments after Maloney conceded his race, Jones tweeted a single word: “Yikes.”