After weeks of delaying her Senate campaign announcement, Rep. Carolyn Maloney revealed her political plan today -- but it wasn't the proclamation supporters have been waiting months to hear.
Maloney announced this afternoon that she's changed her mind and will not challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary.
"These are unique times with unparalleled challenges and running for the Senate is a full time job," Maloney said in a statement. "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."
The Manhattan Democrat reached her decision after several days of worrying about the fact that should she run for Senate, she'd have to leave her current congressional post – one she's held for nearly a decade – and lose her seniority. Maloney said she wants to focus on shaping bills to improve the financial system, passing healthcare reform and ensuring a clean energy future.
"I make this decision, not because I fear a tough political fight, but because I love one," she said.
The decision means full steam ahead for Gillibrand, whom Gov. David Paterson tapped to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she became Secretary of State in January.
Maloney has been under pressure for months to back down. Gillibrand's had the advantage from the beginning, backed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, who regularly flexes his muscles in Washington, the Clinton political machine and most of the state's political players. Even the women's groups who have supported Maloney throughout her eight terms in Congress have stepped to the sidelines.
The side-choosing has mostly stemmed from an eagerness to avoid a primary that would hurt the Democratic nominee in the general election. Democratic cronies from New York to Washington figured a bruising primary battle would deplete the financial capital of their candidate and make it much more difficult to beat the Republican opponent come 2010.
A Marist Poll released in July showed Maloney in a statistical tie with Gillibrand among registered Democrats.
Maloney's withdrawal comes less than a month after Rev. Al Sharpton criticized her for retelling a story that used the N-word, a slur she later said was disgusting. Sharpton is a key supporter of Gillibrand. Maloney apologized.
Gillibrand issued a statement Friday calling Maloney a dedicated public servant.
"For nearly two decades she has been at the helm of landmark legislation to defend consumers from credit card scams, improve crime labs to protect women from assault, and ensure equal protections for women in the workplace,'' Gillibrand said. "I look forward to continue working with her.''
Maloney represents Manhattan's Upper East Side.
She was first elected to Congress in 1992. She's a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee.
She co-founded the House 9/11 Commission Caucus as part of her efforts to pass tougher intelligence laws to prevent terrorism.
Before running for Congress, Maloney was a New York City Council member for 10 years.