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Letters demand Maloney take stand on Senate race

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) has not yet officially announced her bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the 2010 Democratic primary because she has been busy focusing on health care and immigration issues in the House, a spokesman for the congresswoman said.

Maloney had originally planned to launch her campaign in late July, but spokesman Paul Blank said the congresswoman currently does not have a set date on when she will announce her candidacy.

“She’s focused on health care and incredibly busy,” he said. “She has two bills this week on 9/11 health issues and immigration issues. She’s just focused on those things and doesn’t have time to think about politics right now.”

In early July, a letter written to Maloney by a group of Democrats, most of whom were women, called on the congresswoman not to run against Gillibrand on the grounds it could result in a divisive primary.

“We find ourselves wondering how you can consider embarking on a campaign that is so potentially destructive to the interests of New York State and for the Democratic Party,” the letter said.

Gov. David Paterson named Gillibrand as the successor to newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January. Maloney had also been widelymentioned as a potential choice for the seat at the time.

But another group of Democrats, including Liz Azbug, daughter of late women’s rights leader Bella Abzug, wrote a rebuttal letter last week that was addressed to Gillibrand.

“Instead of your seeking to avoid facing the voters in a primary, we call on you to embrace this opportunity to explain your positions on issues, talk about what you have done, outline your vision for the future and involve voters in the process,” the letter said.

Maloney came under fire in mid-July after using a racial slur while relaying a story in a City Hall article. Maloney had blasted Gillibrand in the piece, saying that she had “got a call from someone from Puerto Rico, said [Gillibrand] went to Puerto Rico and came out for English-only education. And he said, ‘It was like saying n----- to a Puerto Rican.”

Maloney, first elected to the House in 1993 as a representative for Astoria, Long Island City and Manhattan’s East Side, later apologized for using the word while retelling the story.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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