A trio of first-time candidates with hedge fund ties is looking to shake up New York’s political world this November.
Reshma Saujani, a 34-year-old lawyer who works for Fortress Investment Group, plans to take on one of the most powerful members of New York’s congressional delegation in the Democratic primary. Saujani is running for the Manhattan and Queens seat that has been held by Rep. Carolyn Maloney for 17 years, and she’s already won some prominent supporters, including Maureen White, a former national finance chief for the Democratic National Committee. White is also the wife of Quadrangle Group founder and former U.S. auto czar Steven Rattner, who has close ties to the Obama administration.
Reshma SaujaniShe also is developing some powerful enemies.
“She’s ending her political career before it starts,” Geraldine Ferraro, the former Queens congresswoman and 1984 vice-presidential candidate, told The New York Times. “That’s not a threat, it’s a statement of fact.”
Saujani, who is seeking to become the first Indian-American woman in Congress, is certainly at odds with her party when it comes to Wall Street.
“Instead of browbeating Wall Street, I want to invite them to help create jobs,” Saujani told the Times. “If you go to Texas, you’ll never hear a congressional member speak poorly of the oil industry. In Michigan, you’ll never hear a congressional member speak poorly of the auto industry. This is our bread and butter.”
But while Saujani, who moved to the district last summer, promises to run “on my Wall Street record, not from it,” some of those ties could come back to haunt her. She worked for Democratic fundraiser Hassan Nemazee, who last year was hit with bank fraud charges. Saujani says she had left his firm before the trouble struck. After leaving that post, she worked at the Carlyle Group.
Meanwhile, a little further north, former hedge fund manager Harry Wilson launched his bid for state comptroller this week.
Wilson, who lives in Scarsdale, is the first Republican to throw his hat in the ring. If he becomes the party’s nominee, he’ll face off against incumbent Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, who took the job after former Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned in disgrace in 2006.
“I’m not a professional politician; I am a professional money manager and an expert in fixing broken organizations and problems,” Wilson said. “And my professional analysis of our state government is bleak.”
Wilson has worked at hedge fund Silver Point Capital and private equity firms Clayton Dubilier & Rice and the Blackstone Group. He also spent time at Goldman Sachs. And like Rattner, he served on Obama’s auto task force—the only Republican among its leadership.
Michael GrimmMichael Grimm’s ties to the hedge fund industry are somewhat more unorthodox. Grimm, a Republican who is seeking to unseat freshman Democrat Michael McMahon spent almost two years undercover as a Wall Street hedge fund manager for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Grimm spent more than a decade with the FBI, beginning with the organized crime branch before moving on to the financial fraud branch.
Grimm is not alone in seeking the Republican nomination for New York’s 13th congressional district, which covers all of Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn. But he has won the support of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Borough President Guy Molinari.
And of the three “hedge fund candidates,” he would certainly seem to have the greatest chance of success: The district he seeks is the only New York City congressional district to go for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, and had been held by Republicans for 16 years before former Rep. Vito Fossella bowed out two years ago after he admitted fathering a child with a woman with whom he was having an affair.