MAKING HISTORY: DCCC Chairman Maloney Becomes First Dem Campaign Chief To Fall in Four Decades

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D., N.Y.) / Getty Images
November 9, 2022

New York Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney made history Wednesday, when he became the first Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair to lose reelection in four decades.

Maloney called his opponent, Republican Mike Lawler, to concede the race around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to the New York Times. Maloney trailed Lawler by roughly 3,000 votes at the time of the call. The result is a deeply embarrassing one for Democrats, given that a DCCC chair has not lost reelection since 1980, when congressman Jim Corman lost to Republican Bobbi Fiedler in California's 21st Congressional District.

Maloney's tenure as House Democrats' campaign head was marked by months of gaffes and infighting. In February 2021, Maloney hired a former "triggerman" for an upstate New York gang to run the committee's diversity and inclusion unit. Months later, in August 2021, the Democrat defied State Department guidelines when he traveled to France to party maskless at a billionaire's estate. Maloney went on to publicly attack one of his party's most vulnerable House incumbents in November 2021, prompting some battleground district members to call Maloney's performance as campaign chair "a real fucking problem."

Still, none of those incidents match the firestorm Maloney started in May 2022, when he opted to run in New York's 17th Congressional District instead of the 18th, which he currently represents. The decision forced fellow Democratic congressman Mondaire Jones, a black man who was elected to the 17th district in 2020, to run elsewhere. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) responded by calling on Maloney to "step aside from his responsibilities of the DCCC," while Rep. Ritchie Torres (D., N.Y.) accused Maloney of "thinly veiled racism."

Maloney also faced ethics issues during his campaign after he used taxpayer funds to hire both his husband's personal trainer and a longtime family friend, both of whom had no political experience. And as Maloney's race tightened in its closing weeks, the Democrat told families struggling with inflation to eat Chef Boyardee.

Minnesota congressman Tom Emmer, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, celebrated Lawler's win Wednesday.

"Mike is the first candidate to defeat a DCCC chair since 1980 because he kept the Hudson Valley at the center of his campaign," Emmer said in a statement. "The voters of Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland resoundingly rejected Sean Patrick Maloney's pro-criminal policies."