Rep. Carolyn Maloney tried to stave off attacks from challenger Suraj Patel in Tuesday night’s debate for the Democratic primary for New York’s 12th congressional seat, while Rep. Jerrold Nadler appeared to struggle to answer questions on issues from fighting the GOP to vaccine misinformation.

Both Maloney and Nadler called on their long records as Democratic stalwarts to make their case to New Yorkers ahead of the Aug. 23 vote.

“I’m a proven progressive leader with a record of delivering results to the city of New York,” Maloney declared, adding a nod to her stance as the sole woman frontrunner in the race: “One thing I have learned in my years of fighting on the front lines of women’s rights is that we will succeed if we never quit.”

She and Nadler were among the New York incumbents most drastically affected by this year’s redistricting process that combined Nadler’s Upper West Side stronghold and Maloney’s Upper East Side base into one district.

Nadler stumbled right out the gate at the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown, with a gaffe about recent years’ impeachments of former President Donald Trump that occurred while the congressman chaired the House Judiciary Committee.

After blasting the conservative Supreme Court and “insurrectionist” GOP in his opening remarks, he said: “I am leading the fight to stop this, and I have passed two impeachments — I have impeached Bush twice.”

Nadler later made a point of noting he’d “led both impeachments of Donald Trump.”

Patel, a 38-year-old attorney who previously launched two unsuccessful challenges to Maloney, tried to cast himself as a youthful alternative to his opponents, who have served in Congress since 1992.

“Democrats lead best when we lead with new ideas, energy and a new generation of leadership,” he said. “1990s Democrats have lost almost every major battle to [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Republicans.”

While Maloney and Nadler mostly went easy on each other, repeatedly noting their record of cooperating in Congress, Patel went on the attack.

Maloney took most of the blows, with Patel accusing her of spreading “vaccine misinformation” linking vaccines to autism around 2012.

“I support vaccines, I support the science behind vaccines, I have worked to bring millions of dollars … for free vaccines,” the congresswoman retorted.

“I have always supported vaccines and I don’t think misinformation is useful,” Nadler tersely remarked.

Aside from the verbal sparring, the candidates aired ideas on hot-button issues from monkeypox to public safety. Asked whether President Biden should run for reelection in 2024, Patel answered in the affirmative, Nadler was non-committal and Maloney shared a surprisingly candid observation.

“I don’t believe he’s running for reelection,” she said.

Discussing the federal response to viral outbreaks like monkeypox, Patel called for a clearer division of responsibilities among the relevant agencies. Maloney said the feds should study how to do better in the next pandemic. And Nadler called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be overhauled.

None of the candidates had radical views on public safety, one of the most divisive issues in the country. Each voiced support of Mayor Adams’ calls for Albany to scale back controversial reforms the have removed bail for a host of crimes. Nadler said judges should have discretion to hold defendants they deem dangerous in jail. Maloney agreed, adding that Congress can pass laws like taxing firearm sales without “going against the Second Amendment.”

“We’ve got to get over this fact that criminal justice reform and racial justice are somehow a zero-sum game or antithetical to one another,” said Patel, saying judges should have “a bit of discretion” on setting bail.

Nadler, 75, and Maloney, 76, were forced into this year’s cage fight when a court struck down a Democratic redistricting plan that would have mostly maintained the status quo with their districts.

A court-appointed official instead drew one district spanning neighborhoods on both sides of Central Park, setting up a showdown between the two powerful lawmakers.

“I didn’t want to run against my good friend Jerry Nadler,” Maloney said. “We have been friends and allies for years.”

Patel mounted strong challenges to Maloney in both 2018 and 2020, but he performed best in western Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods that are not included in the new district.

Both Maloney and Nadler touted the virtues of seniority in the face of Patel’s insistence that the Democratic Party needs new blood.

“Seniority and tenure does not [ensure] effectiveness,” said Patel, who staffed campaigns for former President Barack Obama. “You also need to think about the bully pulpit and what you can do … to effect change in the conversation across the country.”

“With seniority comes clout and the ability to get things done,” said Nadler. “Both Carolyn and I have used that clout very effectively.”

Whoever wins the primary is virtually guaranteed victory in November in the deep blue district.

“I have never been more effective than I am now,” said Maloney. “Seniority is a plus, not a negative.”

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