Sipping iced coffee at a diner the other day, Liz Whitmer Gereghty looked every bit the dream recruit Democrats need to recapture this coveted suburban House seat north of New York City.

She once owned a shop down the street, serves on the school board and speaks passionately about abortion rights. She also happens to be the younger sister of one of her party’s brightest stars, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

“My rights are at risk,” said Ms. Gereghty, 50. “Everything feels very urgent, and I have a congressman who is not representing me, so I raised my hand.”

Problem is, she was not the only one. Mondaire Jones, a popular former congressman who represented much of the area until January, is also running and believes he is the best candidate to defeat Representative Mike Lawler, the Republican incumbent.

It is a pattern repeating itself in swing seats across the country this summer, but nowhere more so than New York, where ambitious Democrats eager to challenge Republicans defending seats that President Biden won are creating primary pileups from Long Island to Syracuse.

Contested primaries have long been a reality for both parties. But after Democrats’ underperformance in 2022 made New York a national embarrassment, party officials and strategists have been increasingly worried that Democrat-on-Democrat fights could drain millions of dollars and bruise a crop of eventual nominees, threatening their carefully laid plans to wrest back House control.

“My view is we shot ourselves in the foot last cycle, and we seem intent on shooting ourselves in the head this cycle,” said Howard Wolfson, who helps steer tens of millions of dollars in political spending as Michael R. Bloomberg’s adviser.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why we can’t figure this out and ensure that we have one strong candidate running in each of these districts,” he added.

Paradoxically, the problem could only grow more stark if Democrats win a lawsuit seeking to redraw the state’s district lines. That could ease the party’s path to victory, but also prompt the courts to push the primary date from June to late August, extending the bitter primary season and truncating the general election campaign.

There is time for leaders like Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat and a New Yorker, to intervene if they want to. While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rarely interferes in open primaries, there is a tradition of less direct maneuvering to boost preferred candidates and edge others out.

So far, Mr. Jeffries appears to be doing the opposite — privately encouraging more potential candidates, with mixed success, according to four Democrats familiar with his outreach who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss it. He tried to nudge State Senator Michelle Hinchey into a Hudson Valley contest earlier this year and urged the former Nassau County executive, Laura Curran, to enter a large primary field for another seat as recently as July.

Mr. Jeffries has also offered support to Tom Suozzi to enter the race for his old House seat on Long Island, where a crowded field of Democrats is circling Representative George Santos, a first-term Republican who faces federal fraud charges.

The leader’s allies argue that the competition will strengthen their nominees and brush off concerns that Democrats will be short on funds. A Democratic super PAC has already earmarked $45 million for New York races. And the D.C.C.C. is pitching donors — as recently as a party retreat in Torrey Pines, Calif., last weekend, according to an attendee — to give to special “nominee funds,” a kind of escrow account collecting money for primary winners.

“Leader Jeffries has no plan to endorse in any Democratic primary in New York,” said Christie Stephenson, his spokeswoman. “He is confident that whoever emerges in these competitive districts will be strongly positioned to defeat the extreme MAGA Republican crowd.”

But the mix of ego and ideology buffeting the star-studded race between Mr. Jones and Ms. Gereghty shows the potential risks, particularly in such a high-profile race to reclaim a Hudson Valley seat lost last year by Sean Patrick Maloney, who was the chairman of the Democratic campaign committee at the time.

Mr. Jones, an openly gay Black Democrat, represented a more liberal configuration of the seat in Congress last term. But after a court imposed new district lines in 2022, Mr. Maloney opted to run for Mr. Jones’s seat instead of his traditional one. Rather than run against a party leader, Mr. Jones chose to move 25 miles to Brooklyn to run for an open seat there.

He lost and has now moved back north.

In a phone interview, Mr. Jones, 36, said he was confident that voters would understand his “impossible situation,” but regretted his decision not to challenge Mr. Maloney, who lost to Mr. Lawler in a seat Mr. Biden won by 10 points.

Mr. Jones said the outcome showed that “you can’t just substitute any Democrat for Mondaire Jones in this district.” More than 100 local and national officials and groups — from the Westchester Democratic chairwoman to the congressional Black and progressive caucuses — have backed his comeback attempt, making him the clear front-runner against Ms. Gereghty.

But some of the positions Mr. Jones trumpeted to win more liberal electorates in earlier campaigns could prove cumbersome.

He is already tacking toward the center and would say little about Ms. Gereghty in the interview. Mr. Jones referred to his own calls to defund the police in 2020 as “emotional, facile comments”; his current campaign features video of Mr. Jones shaking hands with a local police chief while touting votes to increase police funding.

Mr. Jones said he wanted to see New York grant judges new authority to set cash bail for defendants they deem dangerous. And he said he would only support a state plan to tax cars traveling into central Manhattan if there was a carveout for the suburban counties he represented.

Over breakfast in Katonah, an affluent Westchester suburb, Ms. Gereghty pitched her modest record as an electoral strength in a general election. She cast herself as a member of the get-it-done wing of the Democratic Party, like her sister, and predicted Mr. Lawler would gleefully use Mr. Jones’s words against him, as he did to Mr. Maloney.

“If you got tired of the Sean Maloney ads last year, well, at least have some more variety if he’s the candidate,” she said.

Ms. Gereghty has no plans to drop out. But she has struggled to amass local support.

Her most notable endorsement comes from Emily’s List, the national group dedicated to electing women who back abortion rights. Of the $408,000 she’s raised thus far, almost half came from residents of Michigan.

Democrats have caught some breaks in neighboring districts.

Republicans have yet to field a top-tier challenger to Representative Pat Ryan, the only Democrat defending a swing seat here. They are also headed toward their own fraught primary if Mr. Santos continues to run.

Elsewhere, the candidates are crowding in.

Three Democrats, including Sarah Hughes, a former gold medal figure skater, are vying to represent the party against Representative Anthony D’Esposito in a Long Island district Mr. Biden won by 14 points.

Three more have already raised at least $300,000 to run in Mr. Santos’s neighboring district. That does not include Mr. Suozzi or Robert Zimmerman, the party’s 2022 nominee, who is eying another run.

A similar dynamic is playing out in Syracuse, where four Democrats are competing over whether a moderate or progressive should take on Representative Brandon Williams, a Republican who narrowly won a seat that favored Mr. Biden by eight points in 2020.

“Primaries can be bloodying, and they cost a lot of money,” said Ms. Curran, who has decided not to run for Mr. D’Esposito’s seat. “It clouds the message and the mission.”

Republicans have watched it all with delight.

Mr. Lawler spent the month of August meeting constituents and gathering large campaign checks. He said he ran into Mr. Jones along the way and got an earful — about how frustrated the Democrat was to be stuck in a primary.

He won’t have a Democratic primary vote, but Mr. Lawler, who will have to defend his own conservative votes unpopular in the district, made clear he has a preference.

“Look, I’d be happy to run against either,” he said. “But Mondaire Jones certainly has a very long and detailed record that shows him clearly out of step.”

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