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By Dana Rubinstein

Two months ago, the megawatt contest for a rare open House seat in New York City seemed destined to be shaped by one of a handful of nationally known candidates.

There was the former New York City mayor, an ex-congresswoman, a former federal prosecutor who helped impeach Donald J. Trump, and even a sitting congressman from the exurbs.

But with the Aug. 23 primary less than three weeks away, the contours of the race have been redefined. Two women with local bona fides but little national stature have surged toward the front of the pack, upending early conventional wisdom and scrambling the race.

In recent public and internal polling for the Democratic primary, Carlina Rivera, a councilwoman from Manhattan, and Yuh-Line Niou, a Manhattan assemblywoman, are running neck-and-neck with the two well-resourced men considered heavyweights: Representative Mondaire Jones, a recent transplant to the district, and Daniel Goldman, the impeachment investigator, who has never held elective office.

Ms. Rivera and Ms. Niou have one particularly compelling advantage: they already represent parts of the congressional district, and have proven bases of support among voters and Democratic groups in the area — a likely boon in a late-summer contest where voter turnout and interest are expected to be low.

On the surface, Ms. Rivera and Ms. Niou have similarities; both are 30-something women of color with far-left roots.

When she was first running for Council, Ms. Rivera, a 38-year-old Lower East Side native of Puerto Rican descent, was a dues-paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America; her campaign said that she attended only one meeting.

She has since tacked toward the center, resisting the anti-development predilections of the left and defining herself as a pragmatic progressive, as someone who gets things done.

Ms. Rivera has nonetheless won the support of the progressive Brooklyn political establishment — the borough president, Antonio Reynoso; Nydia Velazquez, the congresswoman whose current district overlaps with the newly redistricted one; and several unions — even as she has also more aggressively courted the real estate sector.

Ms. Niou, 39, has never been a D.S.A, member, but has retained her far left posture, winning the support of left-leaning organizations like the Working Families Party and the Jewish Vote, the political arm of Jews For Racial and Economic Justice.

Since she was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2016, Ms. Niou has focused on combating racial discrimination and sexual harassment. In the past six years, she has been the prime sponsor of 15 bills that became law, according to her campaign, including one establishing a toll-free hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment.

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