Sean Patrick Maloney has ambitious goals for someone in a tight race seeking his first term in Congress. His priorities upon taking office would be “getting Congress working for people who need it working in their lives.”
“I think the most important thing right now is that too many voices aren’t being heard in Congress — the middle class, working people and people who care about equality, care about a future where we all count, we all work together,” Maloney said.
He’s seeking to unseat freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) to represent New York’s 18th congressional district.
Maloney, who if elected would be the first openly gay member of Congress from New York, touted his previous work in Washington. He was a senior West Wing adviser in the Clinton administration and was first deputy secretary for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
“I know my way around Washington, and I’ve spent years working on different types of policies and partnerships in people in state government, people in local government, with the private sector,” Maloney said. “And so, I think I bring a set of relationships to the job that is unique for a freshman member, and a degree of experience in how Washington works when it’s working well.”
While he acknowledged the importance of having a Democratic majority in the U.S. House that “cares about LGBT people,” Maloney said he sees an opportunity for passage of pro-LGBT legislation even if Republicans remain in power — provided what he called the “extreme wing” of the party isn’t in control.
Maloney said New York could serve as an example because marriage equality legislation was passed in a Republican-controlled Senate under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The House candidate took credit for helping draft the New York marriage equality bill under the Spitzer administration, but said he wasn’t involved in the process of moving the law through in 2011.
“New York is the example,” Maloney said. “New York is where Democrats and Republicans have figured out how to work together on issues of LGBT equality. We don’t — look, you’ll never get everybody, but I do believe the day is coming when moderate voices, people who care about equality within the Republican Party will begin working with those of us who have been fighting for years on these issues.”
National LGBT groups are backing Maloney in pursuit of his U.S. House seat, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization is working to help Maloney win.
“Sean Patrick Maloney is a wonderful candidate and will be a tremendous leader in the House,” Cole-Schwartz said. “HRC is committed to helping him win and we’re encouraging our members to support his campaign through our candidate fundraising tool at www.hrc.org/candidates.”
Maloney said he supports pro-LGBT legislation that Congress has yet to pass — including the Uniting American Families Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — in addition to repeal of the Defense of the Marriage Act.
“I think a lot of us hope that the Supreme Court will establish as it did in the area of interracial marriage that denying equal marriage rights to same-sex couple is a violation of the federal Constitution as applied to the states, and so you’ll get a national constitution grounding for marriage,” Maloney said. “But Congress certainly has a role to play. We absolutely should repeal DOMA.”
Maloney also called on President Obama to revisit the idea of issuing an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating in the workplace against LGBT people, saying the White House announcement in April that the order wouldn’t happen at this time “was a mistake.”
“I was disappointed that the White House made that decision,” Maloney said. “And I say that as someone who gives the president a great deal of credit for the position he took on marriage, which was historic, and for putting marriage equality front and center at the Democratic National Convention.”
Maloney lives in Cold Springs, N.Y. He has been with his partner, Randy Florke, a Realtor, since 1992 and they have three children: Jesús, Daley, and Essie. They also have homes in Sullivan County and New York City.
The contest to represent New York’s 18th congressional district is tight. Polls in recent weeks have showed Maloney running even with Hayworth, or slightly behind. A Public Policy Polling survey published Sept. 21 found Maloney and Hayworth both receiving 43 percent of support, while 14 percent were undecided.
Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst for the Rothenberg Political Report, ranked the race as a “pure toss-up” because even though being an incumbent would give her an advantage, Hayworth won her seat in a good Republican year, and the district is generally Democratic and would probably see more Democratic turnout in the presidential election.
“I think it’s going to be a really close battle,” Taylor said. “Her first ad against Maloney hits him on how he just moved into the district. I think that could be an effective strategy, but also, this is not a new thing for New York — people first living in the city and moving out to the suburban areas.”
During the Blade interview, Maloney criticized Hayworth, calling her “one of the most extreme members of Congress” and saying she’s “out of step with her district” for supporting legislation put forward by House Republican leaders.
“She wants to end Medicare and give massive tax cuts to multi-millionaires like herself,” Maloney said. “She wants to defund Planned Parenthood. She wants to deny women access to contraception. … On issue after issue that is important to LGBT equality, that is important to the middle class that is important to women’s rights and women’s health, she has been an extreme conservative.”
But Hayworth has a fairly good record on LGBT issues during her first term in Congress. A member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Hayworth voted against three amendments on the House floor that reaffirmed the Defense of Marriage Act. She’s also a co-sponsor of ENDA and the Domestic Partner Tax Parity Act, which would end the tax penalty by individuals who receive health insurance for their partners from their employers.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, praised Hayworth’s action on LGBT issues upon taking her House seat. The organization as of Tuesday hasn’t endorsed Hayworth.
“When Nan Hayworth came to Congress as a freshman in 2011, she quickly distinguished herself by becoming Deputy Majority Whip and joining the bi-partisan LGBT Equality Caucus,” Cooper said. “Her active presence among her peers in the House and within the House Republican leadership is critical to advancing equality, restoring fiscal discipline and maintaining a majority in the Congress.”
Hayworth has a gay son, Will Hayworth, who lives in D.C. According to his website, he studied economics and computer science at Bard College and has experience as a research intern covering monetary policy at libertarian think-tank called the Cato Institute. He identifies as “a registered Republican with very, very libertarian leanings.”
But Maloney was unimpressed with Hayworth’s actions and called on her to articulate her position on marriage equality — which he said 60 percent of his district supports — and say whether she wants to repeal DOMA.
“It’s real simple,” Maloney said. “All she has to do is say she supports marriage equality and repeal of DOMA. She won’t. So, talk is cheap, procedural votes are cheap. When the rubber meets the road, she is not our friend. She is terrible on LGBT equality and I’ve been working on these issues for 20 years of my life. So, I would invite her to — and you should ask her — does she support marriage equality? Will she support the repeal of DOMA? She won’t. I will. That’s the choice.”
The Blade attempted to speak with the Republican lawmaker during the Log Cabin’s “Spirit of Lincoln” awards dinner in D.C. on Sept. 20 — which she attended with her son Will Hayworth — about her position on marriage equality and DOMA, but she refused to take questions. Requests to comment for this article weren’t returned by Hayworth’s campaign or her office.
Maloney said he’s aware Hayworth has a gay son. Asked whether that heightens the need for her to address her positions on LGBT issues, Maloney replied, “All that we have is her record, and she will not say that she supports marriage equality and she will not support the repeal of DOMA. Why she believes that, what she really believes, you’ll have to ask her. I’m not qualified to speak to anything other than what her record is as a member of Congress. And her record is terrible for the most important issue for our community: She is not our friend on marriage equality.”