New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
NY1’s televised hour-long virtual debate, on October 14, of Democratic Representative Max Rose (elected to office in 2018) and Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, challenger for the 11th Congressional District, moderated by political anchor Errol Louis, began with mutual insults and continued acrimoniously as the candidates weighed in on issues of both national and local importance to voters in the 11th Congressional District, which has been
called a “battleground in the fight for control of Congress.”
They clashed on almost everything, including the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nonetheless, even in this exchange there was important information for voters.
“I don’t know why Max Rose is here right now. Why is he not in Washington trying to force Nancy Pelosi for a vote?” said Malliotakis chastising Rose, “That’s what he should be doing. If I were a member of Congress I wouldn’t have left Washington until we had a deal.” Discussing the response to the COVID pandemic, Rose stressed personal responsibility in taking protective measures, and criticized Malliotakis for hosting “what could have potentially been a massive super-spreader event,” while Malliotakis spoke against Rose’s campaign “lie” that she supports the hiking of property taxes. “I am proud that I voted against tax increases 350 times,” she
countered, “I led the fight to hold Mayor de Blasio accountable against property taxes. It was one of the reasons I ran for mayor in the first place.”
Both campaigns are investing heavily in expensive TV ads. (As of this writing, it is said that Rose has a $5 million fundraising advantage over Malliotakis.) Malliotakis, who has the support of President Donald Trump, sought to characterize Rose, a centrist, as aligned with the left wing of his party.
“I’m running for Congress to replace Max Rose, somebody who has misrepresented our community and voted 97% of the time with Nancy Pelosi against our values, while he supported radical policies like bail reform and closing Rikers Island,” said Malliotakis in her opening statement. “I am the law and order candidate in this race, and I’m proudly endorsed by every single NYPD union.” Her focus will be to “restore our economy to return American jobs here in New York and across the country,” unlike her opponent Max Rose, she said, “who actually voted to stop critical funds from going to our struggling small businesses” he said she will accomplish this “by ensuring that we provide the resources that our small businesses need.”
Malliotakis said she will continue to support trade deals like the USMCA agreement, and will “also stand up against the socialist squad and preserve the American dream that my parents who came from Greece and Cuba and millions of immigrants, came to pursue. Right now, it is under attack we need to stand up against socialism, and I will fight to stop it and preserve the American dream for future generations.”
In his opening statement, Rose thanking Malliotakis for her presence and her service, before adding, “We will have enough time to deal with your lies throughout the course of this conversation.” Rose named some of his accomplishments In the 11th District, from setting up the first drive-through testing site in New York City to building a covid facility in 6 days, passing the Victims Compensation Fund, initiating the Eastshore Seawall project, and “putting sanctions on Chinese pharmaceutical companies for producing illicit Fentanyl that’s killing our kids right in our communities. So our work is nowhere near done…. What we have seen is that when we put country first, we stand up to both party leaders and when we focus on results, the sky’s the limit…”
Louis asked Rose to explain what he has been doing during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, and what, specifically, he will do about the rising rate of COVID-19 infections in Staten Island as reported by the Health Department, the department’s research suggesting that the borough’s rate of proper mask wearing is only 45%, and the reality that the part of the 11th District that falls in Brooklyn is within a zone where coronavirus rates are rising, as well.
Rose stated he has worked consistently on a bipartisan basis “to make sure that we were dealing with the dual economic crisis as well as the public health crisis, holding the mayor accountable when he failed with the testing strategy, as well as pushing this president to assert the Defense Production Act as well as over executive authorities.” Social distancing and wearing masks are necessary precautions, and the reason that he strongly opposed Mitch McConnell’s ‘skinny’ COVID-19 bill, as well as Nancy Pelosi’s partisan messaging against additional COVID relief, was that a bold bipartisan framework is needed, Rose said, “I put that forth as a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus.”
Malliotakis replied that this is a very critical question, then went on to describe how she fought insurance companies and bureaucrats at City Hall to help families recover after Hurricane Sandy. “People know that I’ve been there for the community during the most difficult times during this coronavirus pandemic.” She reported that she, her staff, and volunteers, delivered 100,000 pieces of PPE to the frontline and hundreds of bags of groceries to seniors. She also held food drives with various organizations, helped 6 pantries “fill their shelves when they were running low on supply,” and to inspire a sense of normalcy, ensured that cemeteries were open for visitors on Mother’s Day. The city and the nation have to make sure that we have rapid COVID testing, that we’re encouraging people to get testing,” ensuring that we have the vaccine, and investing in therapeutics and cures, she said. “We need to bring our supply chain home. We cannot rely on the communist Chinese party, and we need to make sure that we stockpile necessary supplies to be prepared for a second wave or a future pandemic.”
Louis asked the candidates a follow-up question on the controversial topic of masking and social distancing. “It’s very easy to give food to hungry people who want it,” he said, asking Malliotakis what she would do at a hypothetical rally where people were crowded together and there wasn’t much masking. “The tough part comes when—as in the southern Brooklyn side of the district—there are businesses and other facilities that were following all of the guidelines but have to be closed because there is an infectious spread in the area. Are you prepared to tell your friends that there need to be restrictions on mass gatherings, and mask mandates, and other kinds of enforcement?”
Malliotakis replied that she sees this as a matter of “balance.” “Some of the regulations that are coming forward from the mayor and the governor are burdensome” as “we can’t just mandate people to do certain things,” but she encourages people to wear masks when they’re in groups, in crowds. It’s critical that people protect themselves, and this has to come from a sense of personal responsibility. “People know the proper precautions that they need to take to slow the spread,” She has continued to distribute PPE.
While Rose came back with the criticism that Malliotakis had hosted “what could have potentially been a massive super spreader event,” he said he, too, believes that the topic has become “a little too political, with some Democrats carrying it too far and “some Republicans asserting that they don’t need a mask at all.” “Now is the time when we have to have actual leadership willing to stand up and say, ‘We wear masks not to protect ourselves but to protect you.’ It’s an extraordinarily patriotic duty and I think it’s one that we are obligated to exercise at all possible moments when we’re within distance of others.”
What is really critical for our city and our nation is that we actually put forward a tailored COVID relief package for small businesses, stimulus checks to go out for people who are unemployed and waiting for relief, said Malliotakis, criticizing Nancy Pelosi and others for politicizing the COVID relief package by trying to insert unrelated policies such cashless bail, “trying to release convicted felons from our federal prisons, and giving stimulus checks to those in our country illegally”… I think that that has really been the sticking point of why a sensible and tailored package that addresses the needs of those suffering has not become law.”
Following up on this, Louis posed a question to Malliotakis, “The House of Representatives and the Senate are at an impasse over providing financial relief to small businesses, struggling families cities and states that have been hit hard by the COVID-related loss of business activity and tax revenue. Would you have voted for the heroes 2.0 bill? And if not, do you think no relief at all would be better than that bill? What would you tell constituents who were waiting for the help you just described?”
“Well, just like Max Rose, I would have voted against it as well, but for different reasons. I would vote against it simply because you see Nancy Pelosi trying to jam ideological policies that have no place, she said, reiterating the points she had mentioned, “I think both sides need to come to the table for a tailor build I think it can be done I have hope that it can be done. I urge both parties to do it, and the White House, as well, to finish negotiations, but I really think a sticking point is the ideological wish list that has nothing to do with COVID relief…it’s shameful Republicans tried to put forward at least a bill that would release critical PPE funds for small businesses that are struggling, and Max Rose voted against that approved funding that was already allocated and get that out at least to the community that’s waiting.”
Louis addressed Rose. “You were one of, I think only 18 Democrats that voted against the Heroes 2.0 legislation that would have been 2.2 trillion dollars-worth of relief. Why did you cast that vote then? Suggesting “taking a step back to look at Heroes 1.0,” Rose included a jab