New York’s newly drawn 12th Congressional District is pitting two long-time incumbents against each other — and generational change has been at the forefront of the race.

There, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, who both chair powerful House committees, have held dominion for decades. They were both elected to the House in 1992 and hold committee gavels earned through seniority. But their power has, by definition, invited questions about age and the party’s future.

A third candidate in the primary, Suraj Patel, who is 38 years old, has sought to make the contrast, treading carefully in a district with a traditionally older electorate. Maloney and Nadler, by the simple fact of their combined six decades in the House, are removed from the “urgency” of the moment, Patel said.

“These two have been in office since 1992. Prior to that, I think, in some form of elected office since the 1980s,” he said. “That’s a lot of time to be surrounded by staff.”

“We don’t need rookies who don’t know what they’re doing in Congress,” Maloney said in a phone interview earlier that day. “We need our most experienced, strong, effective, accomplished, I would say, women, who know how to fight and how to overturn the attack on (Roe v. Wade) and on our rights.”

Suraj Patel speaks during New York's 12th Congressional District Democratic primary debate on August 2 in New York.

With little to separate them ideologically, Maloney and Nadler have turned back the clock, touting their shinier accomplishments — and highlighting the other’s lowlights. Maloney has also pointed out that, should she lose, Manhattan would be without a woman representing any of its congressional districts, assuming a woman does not win in the 10th District.

Nadler has noted that, if he were to fall, the city’s delegation in Capitol Hill would lose its only Jewish member — a remarkable fact, given the vibrancy, population and political power of its Jewish community. Patel, though he has been less keen to discuss it, would be the first Indian American to represent New York in Congress if he scored an upset victory.

“One of us is going to lose — hopefully Carolyn — but one of us is going to lose,” Nadler said. “That’s very unfortunate for New York. Two of us losing would be catastrophic for New York.”

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By Richard

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