Progressives confront a crowded house in New York City

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Rivera and Holtzman made clear their event was targeted at the primary’s frontrunner, former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman. But as Goldman clings to a lead in some of the limited polling of the race, the each of the women vying against him are still billing themselves as the natural candidate for progressives to unite around.

For much as the left complains about Goldman’s elite background, Democrats privately acknowledge liberal votes are splintered in the newly created 10th District, which spans from lower Manhattan into parts of Brooklyn. After recent successes uniting around one insurgent challenger in Democratic primaries, progressives may be watching their field’s ambition get in the way of a prime opportunity to claim a congressional seat in a liberal bastion.

“I do believe that progressives need to consolidate,” said New York State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, the third major female candidate in Tuesday’s primary.

“And I believe that based on the ground game, the coalition that we have … and based on the polling, that ours is the campaign to consolidate around,” she added.

Niou held her own buddy-system press event this week with another primary hopeful in the 10th, Rep. Mondaire Jones. The duo teamed up to accuse Goldman, who’s self-funded much of his campaign, of trying to buy the seat. And just as Rivera and Holtzman did days later, neither candidate told voters which of them to pick.

The idea behind the event originated with the Jones campaign, Niou explained in an interview. It wanted to highlight the influence of Goldman’s war chest on the race — his spending has dwarfed that of his four main rivals — and why it could be “dangerous to basically have this kind of representation,” Niou said, amid an “affordability crisis” and rising inflation.

Rivera ultimately skipped that event, telling POLITICO she’d spoken to Jones about it “briefly when it was kind of in the works.” Both she and Niou have touted endorsements from top local New York elected leaders in recent days as they try to consolidate support ahead of the primary. State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who once roomed with Niou and fellow progressive-turned-congressional hopeful Alessandra Biaggi, endorsed Rivera on Thursday.

The last-ditch efforts to stop Goldman have managed to obscure how many issues the progressives in the 10th District primary agree on. Instead, they’ve spent significant time trying to paint Goldman as a centrist for supporting a so-called public option for health insurance instead of Medicare for All, a stance similar to President Joe Biden’s during the 2020 campaign.

Goldman, who rose to prominence as a lawyer during House Democrats’ first impeachment of Donald Trump, has deluged the district with millions of dollars in advertising and mailers. He’s has put nearly $2 million of his own wealth into the race, according to FEC filings, and cemented his frontrunner status by winning The New York Times’ endorsement.

He batted aside criticism about his wealth and self-funding in an interview.

“Look, everybody comes into this race with different advantages,” Goldman said, citing the congressional campaign account Jones brought after shifting to a district 30 miles south of his current seat in the wake of redistricting. “But in a very short race like this, I thought it was much more important to be out speaking to the voters rather than the donors. And so, I put some of my money in.”

Goldman’s rivals have proved unable to match his spending. While some House Democratic leaders — along with the Black Caucus PAC and the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ PAC — have lined up behind Jones, who started the race with nearly $3 million banked from his current term in Congress, they so far haven’t moved the needle for him.

Outside groups like the Working Families Party, which endorsed Niou, also haven’t been able to keep pace with Goldman’s campaign-finance firehose.

The presence of three powerhouse progressive women in the field is exerting its own force on the primary, presenting an awkward choice for other influential liberals, some of whom have ties to multiple candidates. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), for example, endorsed Jones in his first congressional bid and Niou in her Assembly bid but has stayed out of the race.

One potential wrinkle in the race’s closing days: Trump. Even though the former president only won 14 percent of the vote in the district in 2020, he loomed large over the candidates’ Wednesday night debate. Just a few hours before, Trump posted an “endorsement” of Goldman on his Truth Social platform, something Jones and other Democrats seized on as a knock on Goldman’s liberal credentials.

But as the former president stays in the headlines through the revelations produced by the Jan. 6 select committee and the recent FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, among many other investigations, Goldman might be able to use the moment to his advantage. His tweeted response to the Trump “endorsement” garnered a large social media response, and he’s willing to bet that in this political moment, the Democratic base wants a candidate with his background.

“We need people in Congress who have been in the trenches standing up to Donald Trump and as importantly, to the Republican Party in the House that he completely controls,” Goldman said. “And that is why that my candidacy, in part, at least has really resonated with many of the voters.”

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