Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney will be heading to a sharply divided Washington in a few months to represent the new 18th Congressional District, determined to try to build consensus in a bipartisan way.
Maloney said he believes voters in the district -- which includes parts of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties -- want their representative to steer clear of the partisan bickering that has been the norm in Washington for years.
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"What I heard loud and clear is that people want Congress to work again," he said. "They're tired of the partisanship and gridlock and want us to work together to do what makes sense. We need to stop fighting and start working."
Political observers say those are noble sentiments but that Maloney may find it's all easier said than done. They say he will face a huge challenge to gain recognition in the Beltway, never mind building consensus.
"Freshman lawmakers have zero input into what goes on," said Mike Edelman, a Republican political analyst. "They're lucky if they have offices. If he makes waves, they won't let him introduce a bill or get good press. That's how it works."
It remains to be seen whether Maloney's interest in bipartisan cooperation will find willing partners in Washington. On Wednesday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner was talking about working together with President Barack Obama's administration. But on Thursday, Boehner said increases in tax rates on the wealthy would not pass in the House.
"Right after the election, everyone talks about playing nice and getting along," said Christopher Malone, a professor and chairman of the political science department at Pace University in New York City. "But it usually doesn't last very long. The bipartisanship and conciliation is going to end, and we're going to back where we were before the election."
Experienced congressional staffers suggested that Maloney should focus on a few core issues that are important to voters in the district and on constituent services.
"You don't want people to accuse you of being a Washingtonian more than a New Yorker," one staffer said.
With The Associated Press and Betty Liu