Metro

Suraj Patel on why viewers couldn’t turn away from Nadler-Maloney debate

Suraj Patel joked Friday that viewers of his Democratic primary debate against septuagenarian congress members Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney seemed to zone in on one key issue — his distinctive head of hair.

And if the longshot wins the Upper West-Upper East seat it may just be by one — but don’t tell him that.

“The campaign is getting bigger and bigger and so is the size of my hair,” Patel, 38, told The Post.

“My supporters told me to bring the volume during the debate. I also brought the hair!”

Patel’s mountainous coif dominated the stage and screen during Tuesday’s 90-minute NY1/WNYC debate against Maloney and Nadler.

And the underdog — who may have the most notable head of hair since ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s son Dante sported a big Afro during the 2013 race for City Hall and former President Donald Trump trotted out his hair spray comb-over — is now predicting he’s got the Aug. 23 Democratic primary in the bag.

“I’ll win this race by more than a hair. I’m going to win by a whole lot,” Patel said.  

Patel is even selling campaign T-shirts emphasizing his tresses — playing off the Bernie Sanders “Feel the Bern” shirts that brandished the socialist Vermont senator’s shlock of white hair when he ran for president.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Jerry Nadler and Suraj Patel at the 12th Congressional District Democratic primary debate on August 2, 2022.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool

Patel likened his locks to the biblical figure, Samson, whose secret to strength came from his long hair.

“What can I say. I am a south Asian man, a man of color. It’s August. It’s humid. I’m going to let it grow,” Patel said.

His hill of hair may have energized debate performance for the newly drawn 12th congressional district. Patel said he has picked up dozens of new campaign volunteers after both of his retirement-age rivals stumbled at times during the debate.

Patel joked that viewers of the debate seemed to be focused on his distinctive hair.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool

“Maloney and Nadler combined have 60 years of experience. They’re the ones who made a rookie mistake,” Patel said.

“They threw President Biden under the bus.”

Maloney had said during the debate that she doesn’t think Biden will run for re-election, while Nadler, who stumbled often in trying to express his points, even in his openings statement, wouldn’t commit to supporting Biden’s re-election.

Patel, the first candidate asked about Biden, said simply and unequivocally “yes” he supported Biden’s re-election. Footage showed him with a stunned look on his face when Maloney said Biden wouldn’t seek re-election.

“That video of them throwing Biden under the bus will be used by Republicans against the president and Democrats across the country. It’s an incredibly dumb mistake,” Patel said.

Maloney controversially claimed at the debate that she doesn’t believe President Biden will run for re-election in 2024.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool

But a poll released Friday — albeit conducted before Tuesday’s debate — showed Nadler in front.

Nadler led Maloney by 9 percentage points 40% to 31%, with Patel at 11% and the remaining 17% undecided, the Emerson College Polling-PIX11 survey showed.

When undecideds were asked who they leaned towards, Nadler’s support among primary voters jumped to 47%, Maloney 35% and 17% for Patel.

A recent poll showed Nadler in the lead for the primary.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool

Patel, a lawyer whose family owns Sun Development, a network of hotels across the country, describes himself as an “Obama Democrat” rather than a democratic socialist in the mold of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

He has said previously that children in poor neighborhoods should not be stuck in low-performing public schools.

“I’m for raising the cap on charter schools,” said Patel, putting him at odds with many fellow Democrats and the teachers union who oppose the privately managed, publicly funded alternatives.

He said successful programming in charter schools should be used as models replicated or made scalable in traditional  public schools.

The newly drawn 12th congressional district folded the West Side and East Sides into one district, pitting Nadler and Maloney against each other. Both have served in Congress for 30 years.

— Additional reporting by Emily Crane