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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney: 'We don't need to wait'

Jan 18, 2013
In The News

It took freshman Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney only a day after his swearing-in to deliver his first floor speech. The Democrat from Cold Spring made his brief remarks during the Jan. 4 House debate on legislation to spend $9.7 billion paying flooding claims related to Superstorm Sandy.

“Madame Speaker, my name is Sean Patrick Maloney,” he began. “I’m new here. I don’t know all the rules of Washington, but it sure seems like the rule here is to put off till tomorrow what should be done today, even when our fellow Americans are suffering.”

Maloney, a 46-year-old attorney, suggested using the Golden Rule, a lesson he learned from his parents and his parish priest. He cited the example set by the owners of a hardware store in Katonah, Westchester County, who helped Sandy victims navigate the store’s darkened aisles after the power went out.

“We can act with speed and caring,” he said. “We don’t need to wait.” CNN used a short video clip of Maloney’s remarks in reporting on the House vote that evening.

Maloney, who won an expensive campaign in the Hudson Valley’s redrawn 18th Congressional District, is new to elected office. But he isn’t new to politics, or Washington.

Maloney, one of six children, did not grow up in a political family, according to his brother, Mark. A graduate of Hanover High School in New Hampshire, he has long been interested in public affairs and international issues. Maloney spent two years at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service before transferring to the University of Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations.

Maloney then spent a year in a Catholic volunteer program in the coastal city of Chimbote, Peru.

“At that time, it was a very poor area of about 300,000 or 400,000 people living in poverty around a couple of fish factories and a couple of steel mills,” he said. “So we just did very basic developmental work —irrigation, sanitation, nutrition, literacy.”

After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in the spring of 1992, Maloney accepted a job offer from the prestigious Willkie Farr &Gallagher law firm. But he delayed his start date six months to volunteer at the Democratic National Convention and for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in Little Rock, Ark. He worked at the law firm from December 1992 until 1997, then returned to the political world, becoming the No. 3 person in the Staff Secretary’s Office at the Clinton White House. Two promotions later, Maloney left the White House in July 2000 as assistant to the president and staff secretary.

He spent the next three years running a software company in Manhattan, Kiodex, which specializes in helping hedge funds manage commodity risks. After Kiodex was sold to SunGard in 2003, Maloney returned to Willkie Farr.

He came back to politics for a third time in 2006 to make an unsuccessful run for state attorney general, finishing third in the Democratic primary behind Andrew Cuomo, who went on to win the general election. Maloney was then hired as Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s first deputy secretary after Spitzer took office in 2007. Maloney remained in the governor’s office after Spitzer resigned, working a few months for Gov. David Paterson.

In 2009, Maloney returned to private practice, joining the firm Kirkland &Ellis as a partner to continue the infrastructure work he had done at the governor’s office. He moved to another law firm, Orrick, in March 2011 to join their infrastructure law practice.

Maloney’s infrastructure experience will be put to good use in Congress, where he’s been appointed to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He’s also a member of the Agriculture Committee.

Congress did not enact a new five-year farm bill last year —lawmakers instead approved a temporary extension —which means Maloney will have a chance to advocate for New York on federal agricultural policy. Two other New Yorkers —Republican Reps. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook and Chris Collins of the Buffalo area —also are on the Agriculture Committee.

Maloney’s interest in serving in the House began with Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s announcement in early 2012 that he would retire.

Hinchey’s former 22nd Congressional District, however, was split up among four other congressional districts as part of statewide redistricting to accommodate the loss of two of New York’s 29 House seats.

At that time, Maloney lived in Manhattan and had a weekend home in Sullivan County in the redrawn 19th Congressional District, where freshman Republican Rep. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook was being targeted by Democrats.

Switching his residency to Sullivan County and running against Gibson would have been an easy option. But Maloney chose instead to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth of Bedford in the new 18th Congressional District, which meant competing first in a five-way Democratic primary.

“I wanted to turn the page on the tea party and be part of that,” Maloney said. “I just felt (Hayworth) was on the other side of everything I cared about.”

The redrawn 18th District covers parts of northeast Westchester County, all of Putnam and Orange counties, and the southwest corner of Dutchess County, including Poughkeepsie and parts of Hyde Park and LaGrange. Redistricting added Democratic areas that were not in Hayworth’s old district, including Poughkeepsie, Beacon and Newburgh.

Hayworth outspent Maloney $3.2 million to $2.17 million, according to the most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Hayworth’s campaign unsuccessfully cast Maloney as a carpetbagger with no ties to the Congressional District. Maloney purchased a carriage house in the Putnam County community of Cold Spring last May with plans to build a larger modular home on the site for his family in Manhattan to move into. Maloney, who is gay, and longtime partner Randy Florke, have three children. Their son, Jesus, is 23 and lives in New York City. They also have two daughters, Essie, 10, and Daley, 12.

Florke said plans to build the modular home are on hold because of zoning issues. “We are debating now whether actually to sell our current house,” he said. “We found a house that we love in Cold Spring. And so, we may not even build.” Florke indicated the house under consideration for purchase could be renovated as part of a new cable television program for the A&E network that he will begin filming in the spring for broadcast in the summer. The program is titled “My Flipp’n Brother” and will feature Florke’s brother, Ronnie, as a contractor. A pilot for the program has already aired: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmxDWhp4LZw.