Today’s news:

Maloney scuttles Senate run

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) has dropped her bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the 2010 Democratic primary, saying she will instead use her leadership positions to push through bills in the House.

Maloney, first elected to the House in 1993 as a representative for Astoria, Long Island City and Manhattan’s East Side, had faced some opposition from high profile Democratic leaders after hinting she would run earlier this summer. The congresswoman also came under fire in mid-July after using a racial slur while relating a story during a City Hall article.

Maloney said last week she had decided not to face off against Gillibrand.

“In seriously assessing a Senate campaign, I have been inspired by all the calls of support I have received from a broad array of people from all over the state and encouraged by my strong showing at the polls,” she said. “However, these are unique times with unparalleled challenges and running for the Senate is a full-time job.”

The congresswoman said she believed she could accomplish more in the House, where she is chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee.

“Giving up for a critical period of time the things I do best — passing legislation, working on the issues, serving New Yorkers — would put politics before policy for the next year and a half,” she said. “In this Congress, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enact meaningful health care reform, restore the trust and confidence in our financial systems and take a step toward a clean energy future. I may not be entering the race, but I will never leave the fight.”

Maloney had never officially announced that she would run against Gillibrand, who was named as successor to newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January by Gov. David Paterson in a somewhat controversial move. Gillibrand has garnered support from Schumer and the White House for the 2010 race.

In early July, a letter written to the congresswoman by a group of Democrats called on her not to challenge the senator on the grounds that it could result in a divisive primary. But another group of Democrats, including Liz Abzug, daughter of women’s rights leader Bella Abzug, wrote a rebuttal late last month that called on Gillibrand to focus on the issues of the campaign, rather than attempt to pressure Maloney to drop out.

In mid-July, Maloney apologized after using a racial slur when telling a story in a City Hall article. The congresswoman had slammed Gillibrand in the piece, saying she had “got a call from someone in 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.”

Top Democrats, many of whom had been silent on Maloney’s decision to run for Senate, said they believed she was valuable in Congress.

“She is on a very fast and sharp trajectory in the House,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “Her effectiveness in fighting for consumers, women’s rights and so many other noble causes will continue.”

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said he believed Maloney would have excelled had she been elected as a senator.

“I firmly believe that there is no elected office that would not be enhanced by her vision, her class and her drive, and I have no doubt that she would have been an effective and respected senator,” he said. “However, her seniority in the House of Representatives will give her added responsibilities and effectiveness that will benefit all New Yorkers.”

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

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