Lots of New York Democrats spend their falls campaigning in other parts of the country, heading to Pennsylvania or Ohio to knock on doors or participate by texting, phone banking, or in myriad other ways because New York is so Deep Blue. 2020 was no different. Joe Biden won New York State by 22 points in 2020, 61-39.
But this time, in the national midterm elections, there’s a race with major national consequences right in our own backyard – the Staten Island/Brooklyn Eleventh Congressional District (11th C.D.), featuring Republican Nicole Malliotakis and Democrat Max Rose.
Dems Hold Only a Five Seat Majority in the House
The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is a mere five seats across the entire nation. It’s no secret the Republican Party has a chance to win the majority, given how volatile the country’s politics are right now. Historically, the President’s political party loses ground in the midterms following a Presidential election, but there isn’t a lot of ground to lose if the majority is only five seats.
The Only NYC Congressional Seat Held By a Republican Can Potentially Be Flipped
Among the intensely competitive House seats in the midterms is a rematch for the only seat in New York City currently held by a Republican, Nicole Malliotakis, and Democrat Max Rose. Rose won the Staten Island-Brooklyn 11th Congressional district in 2018 in an upset victory against a Republican incumbent*. Malliotakis had been a Republican State Assemblywoman, and she defeated Rose in 2020 during the Presidential election, with Trump at the top of the ticket.
The 11th Congressional District’s Rose-Malliotakis rematch, in my view, is a too- close-to-call contest. In 2020 Trump defeated Joe Biden by ten points in the 11th Congressional District. Staten Island is about two-thirds of the district and Brooklyn the other third. In Staten Island itself, Trump won by sixteen points. Max Rose succeeded in running ahead of Biden in 2020, but still lost to Malliotakis by six points, 52% to 46%.
Can Redistricting Help the Dems in the Newly Drawn 11th C.D.?
Enter the dramatic changes from the redistricting of New York’s Congressional seats. Following the Census, the New York State Legislature redrew the district lines for Congress, State Assembly, and State Senate, and Governor Hochul signed them into law. In the 11th Congressional District, Staten Island remained intact as part of the district, but the Brooklyn part changed. Prior to redistricting, the Brooklyn part consisted of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and parts of Midwood, Brighton, and Gravesend. Rose had defeated Republican incumbent Dan Donovan in 2018, about 53%-47% overall, even defeating Donovan in Staten Island itself, in a race with about 190,000 votes. Rose was very competitive in 2020, getting 45% against Malliotakis even on Staten Island and carrying the Brooklyn side of the district, but the turnout in the Presidential election was over 290,000 and President Trump pulled conservative voters throughout the district.
In the new district map, Park Slope, Sunset Park, and Boerum Hill, overwhelmingly Democratic areas, have replaced Bensonhurst, Midwood, Brighton, and Gravesend, which combined barely broke even between the Democrats and Republicans. Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights remain part of the district. I represented parts of Park Slope for 32 years, from 1985 to the end of 2016, and it is a high turnout area where the Democratic vote frequently reaches 95% in some election districts. Had the new lines been in place for the 11th C.D. in 2020, Joe Biden would actually have carried the district by nearly ten points.
The result of the redistricting has now made the district highly competitive between the two parties. One major political analysis firm, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, has rated the district a Toss-Up between the two parties. The Cook Political Report rates the district “Leans Democratic.”
But the Dem Candidate is Still Considered an Underdog; Dem Voters Need Motivation
Max Rose will nonetheless tell you he is still the underdog in this profoundly politically unpredictable year, and needs all the help he can get. After all, Biden won Virginia by ten points in 2020, but Democratic candidate for Governor Terry McAuliffe lost to Republican Glenn Youngkin in 2021 by two points in an upset. Very few Democrats or Republicans switched sides in that race.
My analysis of that Virginia race indicated that the Republicans simply got more of their own voters to the polls than the Democrats did, reflecting the problems Democrats have motivating their voters in elections other than the Presidential election. Despite the improvement in the partisanship for the Democrats of the 11th Congressional District, no one in their right mind suggests defeating the new Republican incumbent there will be anything other than a very serious challenge.
Former Dem Congress Member Max Rose Fights for the Seat Again
Rose was a U.S. Army infantry officer who won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star during a combat tour in Afghanistan, and in 2018 initiated a campaign as a passionate anti-corruption crusader, rejecting taking campaign contributions from lobbyists and Corporate PACs.
When first elected, he helped win permanent health care funding for 9/11 victims, millions for opioid victims, and helped jump start the East Shore Seawall, a Hurricane Sandy rebuilding project bogged down in red tape, forward. When the Pandemic began, he won testing sites for Staten Island, deployed with the National Guard to assist with NYC’s coronavirus pandemic response, helped convert South Beach State Hospital to a COVID-emergency response center, and brought in billions to the City for resident economic stimulus payments, COVID relief, and other funds to save the New York and American economies in 2020 when Congress and former President Trump passed the initial COVID relief bills. In 2021 Rose served as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on COVID. Rose has a Democratic primary opponent, Brittany Ramos DeBarros, who is supported by the Working Families Party. Rose says he is not taking her for granted and is opening a campaign office in Park Slope.
Nicole Malliotakis: Trump Supporter, Biden Election Denier, Voted Down Pandemic’s American Rescue Plan, Original ObamaCare, Money For Vaccines
Nicole Malliotakis was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2010 and served for ten years there as a Republican member from the 64th Assembly District, which covers much of Staten Island and part Bay Ridge Brooklyn. She was the Republican party candidate for Mayor against Bill DeBlasio in 2017, losing by almost forty points Citywide but easily carrying Staten Island. A few days after the November 2020 election, she burnished her Trump brand by denying Biden won the presidency. In the hours after the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol, she voted against the certification of Joe Biden as the President of the United States. Malliotakis voted against both the Independent Jan. 6th Commission, which did not become law, as well as the Select Committee to investigate the attack.
Malliotakis voted NO on the American Rescue Plan (ARP) when it passed the House on February 27, 2021. The ARP provided stimulus payments of $1,400 per person, (I’m not sure why anyone on Staten Island, or anyplace else in the United States, wouldn’t have wanted the money), PPP loans for businesses to sustain employment, $2.7 billion for emergency rental assistance for New York State to help avoid evictions, foreclosure relief, and $ 6 billion to the MTA to prevents its financial collapse during the pandemic. The MTA is obligated to provide most of the subsidies for the special Verazzano Bridge toll discounts for Staten Island residents. She was NO on all of that.
The Plan also included $50 billion to assure that every American got the COVID vaccine for free. One year later, 85% of adult Staten Islanders (and 87% of NYC residents) have been fully vaccinated for free.The Congresswoman was a NO on that as well.
Since the initial funding for the vaccines occurred in 2020, when Rose voted for that package, it means, as far as I can tell, Malliotakis has never actually voted for any money for the vaccines, or for $1,400 checks. Instead, she joined the lawsuits against New York City’s vaccine mandates. The mandates, of course, included the New York City school system workforce in addition to requiring proof of vaccinations for indoor dining and venues. The mandates had taken place during the second wave of COVID, the DELTA variant, which brought millions of new cases and tens of thousands of new deaths across New York and the United States.
While seeking to block the City’s vaccine mandates, the new Congresswoman was sponsoring vaccine distributions on Staten Island. and celebrating the Supreme Court’s rejection of President Biden’s vaccine mandate for the private sector workforce. She mentioned nothing about the Court approving the mandate covering 17 million health care workers. She sure can straddle the culture wars!!
There’s no straddling of the culture wars on abortion. The Congresswoman is against a woman’s right to an abortion. In 2019, the Democrats in New York finally had gained complete control of the State Senate and codifying Roe v. Wade became a top priority. In early January, the Legislature passed a codification of Roe v. Wade, making it the law in New York. The record shows Malliotakis a NO vote on that.
She was also a Yes vote on the annual budget amendment to eliminate Medicaid funding for abortions. (the record of her 2019 vote on the amendment), a vote she had taken through her career in the Assembly; no choice for poor women. Malliotakis also voted against Marriage Equality in 2011, but claimed that vote was “a mistake” during her 2017 Mayoral run.
There’s one set of votes during her time in the State Assembly that aren’t about the culture wars; they are just against the basic interests of ordinary working Americans. If Ms. Malliotakis had had her way, New York State’s minimum wage would still be $7.25 an hour. On March 28, 2013, then Assemblymember Malliotakis voted against budget bill S. 2607-D (A Senate bill was substituted on the NY State Assembly floor because the Senate had passed it first), raising the State minimum wage to $9 an hour from $ 7.25. That bill became law. Three years later, on April 1, 2016, she voted No on S. 6406 (the same procedure as above), on the Assembly floor, raising the minimum wage gradually in New York State to $15 an hour. New York State had been stuck at the national minimum of $7.25 an hour before 2013, and she even voted No on a modest proposal passed by the Assembly in 2012 to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 on May 15, 2012, which never became law.
Malliotakis also voted No on the initial effort to implement ObamaCare in New York in 2011. The bill to create the New York Health Exchange, A.8514, passed the Assembly on 6/23/2011, and Malliotakis voted No. The State Senate Republicans later blocked passage in that House. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order some months later that successfully started Obamacare in New York anyway. Obamacare helped millions of New Yorkers get health insurance, primarily by expanding eligibility for Medicaid. In 2009, before Obamacare, about 18% of Staten Islanders were on the Medicaid program, according to a 2009 report from the United Hospital Fund. By 2019, 27% of Staten Islanders had Medicaid coverage. Persons without health insurance on Staten Island dropped from over 9% in 2009 to 4% in 2019.
After the effort by Donald Trump to repeal Obamacare, New York State finally codified Obamacare in 2019. Malliotakis by then had managed to figure out Obamacare was a good thing and voted yes. Had she had her way, Obamacare would not have been able to start in New York until April 2019.
Dems Can Win The Seat Back If They Get Out the Vote
Both Rose and Malliotakis are aggressive, determined people who will need to struggle through a volatile national political climate. National polling right now suggests the Democratic Party is nowhere near as strong as it was when it won the House majority in 2018, and Democrats are nervous. However, redistricting at the national level has gone much better than predicted for the Democrats and the results nationwide show neither party with major gains.
That means it will all come down to how well the candidates do in their campaigns in the competitive districts. With only a five-seat majority for the Democrats, victory in the Eleventh Congressional District in New York has become vital.
** Full disclosure – I began contributing to Rose’s campaigns in 2018 and have continued to do so.