Mud-slinging intensifies after Malliotakis sweeps GOP Congressional Primary

Malliotakis, Rose
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Rep. Max Rose will face off in the contentious District 11 congressional race in November. (Tom Callan / Max Rose for Congress)

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis swept the Republican congressional primary in District 11 on June 23 — setting the stage for a brutal race against Democratic Rep. Max Rose in one of the country’s most contentious swing districts. 

“The time has come, my friends, to send Max Rose packing and make him a one-term wonder, like other Democrats who have held this seat,” Malliotakis said during her victory speech on Tuesday night.  

Malliotakis, who has President Donald Trump’s endorsement, claimed more than 70% of the in-person votes on Tuesday night, defeating Staten Island challenger Joe Caldarera. She will face off against one-term Democrat Rep. Max Rose in November for the Staten Island and southern Brooklyn congressional seat.

The race is one of the most closely-watched in the country, as the district is one of only seven nationwide that elected a Democratic congressman in 2018 after voting overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump. In that election, Rose narrowly beat Republican incumbent Dan Donovan, becoming the second Democratic congressman in 30 years to represent the district.

Rose, a 33-year-old Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, catered to the district’s base two years ago with moderate policies and calls for bipartisan unity. While in office, he has been careful to toe the party line while distancing himself from his left-most colleagues — voting for Trump’s impeachment, for example, while also voting for sustained defense funding and military involvement in Iran. 

Malliotakis, an assemblymember and 2017 mayoral candidate, is relatively moderate herself for a Trump supporter, earning a C-minus rating from the NRA, and telling Gotham Gazette in 2017 that while she does not support third-trimester abortions, she is “not looking to repeal Roe v. Wade.”

The two have spent months slinging attacks at each other — which have intensified since Malliotakis declared victory. 

“I could not be happier to welcome Nicole Malliotakis to the general election as she’s a fraud who represents everything we hate about our politics,” Rose tweeted Tuesday night. 

Rose then debuted a website and an attack ad against Malliotakis only hours after she won the primary, the Staten Island Advance first reported

Many of Rose’s attacks hinge on statements Malliotakis made in 2017 claiming that she regretted voting for Trump — a quote Malliotakis now says was sarcastic and taken out of context.

“As you may know, Nicole has an extremely long record of flip-flopping, some say it’s the world record,” Rose’s campaign writes in a petition calling for Malliotakis to become the global ambassador for flip flops. “So, as we enter Summer, we thought there had to be a way to reward Nicole’s life-long commitment to flip-flopping.”

Malliotakis, whose Twitter feed is equally devoted to trashing her opponent, has grouped Rose with Democratic-socialist representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, often calling him part of the “radical left.” 

“During his campaign and in office, Max Rose claimed that he’s a moderate. But in reality, he votes with Nancy Pelosi over 95% of the time, and he has caved to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and the socialist squad,” Malliotakis said when accepting the endorsement of the Staten Island Republican Party in January. 

An attack ad funded by the pro-Trump group the American Action Network also highlighted Rose’s left-leaning voting record, implying that it contradicts his image as a moderate Democrat. 

“Max Rose ignored us and voted to impeach the president, a politically-motivated charade that lets the Washington elites decide the election, not us,” the ad says. 

But, while the claws are already out, the fight for the seat has just begun, Malliotakis said in her victory speech on Tuesday.

“We can sit back and watch silently as all we cherish is torn down or we can stand shoulder to shoulder and fight back against the Socialist agenda that is sweeping this land,” she said. “The question I’m asking tonight is, will you stand with me and join in that fight?”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on BrooklynPaper.com