Maloney supporters rally behind his pro-choice stance as CD17 race tightens

Legislative Gazette photo by Austin Jefferson

Five weeks before the high-stakes midterm elections, Democratic candidates and abortion rights activists rallied in Westchester County to demonstrate strong support for reproductive health and women’s rights in New York and beyond.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins were joined by local officials and reproductive rights advocates to buoy the congressman’s chances of winning the race for New York’s newly redrawn 17th Congressional District. 

Maloney is running against Assemblyman Mike Lawler, D-Pearl River. Several media outlets have included this race in their lists of battleground districts that could determine the balance of power in Congress. 

Participants at the rally — including Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Alessandra Biaggi, D-Mount Vernon, the state senator who ran against Sean Patrick Maloney in the democratic primary for NY-17 — excoriated the Supreme Court decision that reversed Roe vs Wade, the landmark 1973 case that ensured the right of American women to terminate a pregnancy. 

“I am very proud to be here and for many it’s probably surprising but it shouldn’t be because frankly, after primaries are over this is exactly what we should expect from [someone] who calls themself a leader,” Biaggi said.

Catherine Lederer, president of WCLA-Choice Matters — an organization that works to get pro-choice candidates in Westchester elected — said, “I don’t want want my daughter to have less rights than I had. The man who is running against Sean is worse than a MAGA Republican. I was told to call him MAGA Mike. I have so many other words for him other than MAGA Mike. 

“He is on the record for believing that Roe was correctly decided when the Supreme Court overturned it,” Lederer continued. “That means he doesn’t believe in anyone’s rights.”

Lederer, in endorsing Ryan, reminded attendees that he had worked to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R 8296) in the House of Representatives, a bill he cosponsored and that would protect abortion rights for people with the capacity to carry a pregnancy in America. 

Similarly, Andrea Stewart-Cousins the New York State Senate majority leader, sponsored and passed a bill (S.51002) this July that would protect reproductive rights for New York citizens, a bill that Biaggi voted for. 

“This is a standup moment for democracy. I’ve said that many many times; what does that mean? We’re here because of decades long assaults on our rights. We are here because six people decided for 330 million Americans that they were gonna take away their right to an abortion, which is health care,” Biaggi said. 

Legislative Gazette photo by Austin Jefferson
Senator Biaggi, right, came out in full support of Rep. Maloney months after a contentious primary race where she criticized his strategies as DCCC chair and choice to run in Rep. Mondaire Jones’ district.

A Siena poll released on September 28 reports that 40 percent of New York’s registered voters polled believe abortion should always be legal and 32 percent believe it should be mostly legal. 

Lawler, Maloney’s Republican opponent in the race for NY-17, recently penned an op-ed for USA Today where he clarified his stance on abortion rights.

Lawler wrote, “Let me be clear: I am personally pro-life, while also supporting the right to an abortion in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. For the record, I’m also opposed to a federal ban on abortion and would vote against one.”

Maloney — in both his voting record and public statements — is clearly pro-choice. 

“Mike Lawler has a record of opposing reproductive freedom. He thinks it’s fine for every state in the country to ban abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. He plays this game where he wants to say he’s not so bad but his record says otherwise and he’s voted against every measure in the legislature that would have protected women’s reproductive freedom,” Maloney said.

“There’s a very clear choice in this race, I’m gonna protect Roe v Wade, put it into federal law, he’s gonna ban abortion all over the country and the voters are figuring that out.”

The New York Post and the National Republican Congressional Committee are reporting results of an internal poll by McLaughlin & Associates, released on September 13, that shows Lawler leading the race 49 percent to 45 percent. The poll reportedly has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The redrawn NY 17 consists of 209,853 registered Democratic voters, 127,115 Republicans and 140,328 independent voters.