Representing Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is hoping to turn her swing Congressional district red on November 3rd this year, winning a seat from incumbent Max Rose, who took the spot in 2018.
The 39-year-old Greek-American woman is doing her best to portray Rose as too liberal for the district, which Donald Trump won big in 2016, by a margin of 10 percentage points, after choosing Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Malliotakis, who received a B.A. in Communications from Seton Hall University and earned an MBA from Wagner College, believes she has a real chance to represent her native district in Washington.
Asked by Greek Reporter in an exclusive interview what the most important issues are now as she sees it, Malliotakis answers “Rebuilding the economy, restoring American jobs, public safety and preserving the American dream and stopping socialism.”
Last month, the challenger declared to supporters “To me, this is a very important election because we do have people who are pushing a socialist agenda.” Maliotakis then introduced her mother, who had been forced to flee the Communist revolution in Cuba in 1959.
“Some people in Washington — the obvious ones like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — are trying to bring the very policies to this nation that millions of immigrants like my parents fled,” Malliotakis charged at the rally.
Malliotakis is also trading on the near-unanimous unpopularity of New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who is seen as mishandling the unrest which occurred recently in the city, refusing to stop demonstrations which ended in riots, leaving the city paralyzed, with blocks of boarded-up storefronts.
“Everybody knows Bill de Blasio is the country’s most radical mayor,” the Republican challenger stated in a Sept. 22 television advertisement.
However, the New York mayor is so deeply unpopular that even Democratic incumbent Rose has distanced himself from de Blasio in television advertisements, saying he is the “worst mayor ever in the history of New York City.”
The 11th District is far more conservative than the rest of the city, voting for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by ten percentage points in 2016.
Pledge to “push back against radical policies”
Malliotakis tells Greek Reporter in an exclusive interview that the incumbent “has not represented the values of the people of this district. He has supported policies that the people of the district disagree with.
“Ninety-seven percent of the time he has voted with Nancy Pelosi, from releasing convicted felons over the age of 50 — including violent ones — to amnesty for gang members to impeaching the President. He has supported these votes and they are not in sync with the views of this district.”
She continues, “He supports policies that Mayor de Blasio has brought forth that have made us less safe. For example, he supported ending cash bail, and the plan to close Riker’s Island (prison). And that is a prime issue in this campaign. Public safety has become a very big issue in New York.
“My community is looking for someone who’s going to push back against these radical policies that have made us less safe. Shootings, murders, burglaries, car thefts, they have all skyrocketed in the last year. And we are going back to the 1980’s and we need to restore law and order to the streets of this city.
“I’m proud to have the endorsement of every police union of New York City, and there are five of them — fifteen law enforcement organizations total.”
Asked by Greek Reporter if crime in New York City has gotten worse after the riots spurred by racial unrest, Malliotakis answers “It’s been a culmination of policies that have taken place over the last couple of years. Certainly the defund the police movement added to that.”
Incumbent “haunted” by participation in protest march
“The local city council cut a billion dollars from the NYPD budget. Max Rose actually marched with individuals who called for the defunding of our police (on June 5) and that has become a major issue in this campaign and the community is very upset with him that he did that. He was the only elected official to do that locally and it has haunted him since,” she relates.
“This is a community that is made up of a lot of civil servants — police, fire, and their relatives — and it’s unconscionable to think that we would have a member of Congress who would stand there between signs that say “Defund the Police” and “Blue Lives Murder.”
“That was a major part of the campaign,” she says, “because the city council ended up cutting the money and a lot of the people in the community believe that he contributed to that by supporting the movement and by marching with them.
“He has been desperately trying to backtrack, but it’s too late,” Malliotakis states.
Lawsuit calling for restaurant reopenings
She also stresses that the economy, which took a terrible drubbing in New York due to shutdowns caused by the pandemic, is another major issue in her campaign. Mayor de Blasio shut down restaurants in the city completely until October, only opening them two days after Malliotakis and others filed a lawsuit calling for them to reopen.
Even then, however, New York City restaurants were only allowed to operate at 25% capacity — which is exactly half of the capacity of similar establishments elsewhere in the state.
Malliotakis says firmly that the lawsuit is still active because “We want to be treated the same as every other municipality in the state. The governor said “metrics” — well, we met those metrics, and we want to be treated the same.”
“We wanted to ensure that we restore the economy and bring back the jobs lost here in New York and across America to pre-Covid levels,” she explains. “We want to make sure we re-establish our old, pre-Covid unemployment rates. I think that is a big task.”
New York City as an economic engine for the US
This brings the conversation to her candidacy and why she feels she is needed as a force to boost the economy to its previous robust health before the pandemic. “We have a group of people here in New York who are self-described Socialists — members of Congress, like Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who are calling for the destruction of the American economy,” Malliotakis states.
“They want to end capitalism. We can’t trust that they are going to restore the economy if they take control of all levels, all branches of government in Washington. We need to make sure that there is dual (party) representation and I would be the only Republican from New York City.
“And I think that’s important,” she says, “because New York City is an economic engine for the nation. And you can’t have people who are trying to destroy capitalism here. You have to have two-party representation, and that’s what I represent for the people of this city, someone who will make sure that an alternative viewpoint is presented.”
“We need someone in AOC’s backyard who’s going to be pushing back, and that’s going to be me!” she states with conviction.
She explains that someone is needed to bring some much-needed balance to the political scene now in Congress. “The thing is this — even if you are a Democrat or an Independent, if you live in New York, you see the value of having a balance,” she explains.
“Because right now, things have gone so far to the left — they are releasing prisoners, they want to close our jails, they increase property taxes, and keep industry shut down. People see the value in having alternative viewpoints.”
Daughter of a Greek immigrant and a Cuban refugee
Asked by Greek Reporter about the importance of her Greek heritage, Maliotakis relates “My dad is from Crete; he came in 1962 — and my mother is a Cuban refugee. They met here in New York.
“He came with $50 in his pocket,” she says, “and worked very hard. He didn’t speak the language when he came and had no friends or family here. He always had multiple jobs — he was a busboy, then a waiter, then he ended up having his own restaurant as well as another business. He always had at least two jobs. That’s where I get my work ethic, I believe.”
Prior to her ten years in the New York Assembly, Malliotakis worked in the office of Governor George Pataki, for a local energy company doing public affairs and also for a nonprofit theater. She has has experience, therefore, working in both the public and private sectors.
How she pledges to serve the community
“I have a very good relationship with the people of this district. I have been serving this community. I helped this community recover and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, which devastated my district.”
First elected to the Assembly in 2010, Malliotakis was in the middle of campaigning again for reelection in 2012 when Sandy slammed into the area, killing more than a score of Staten Islanders and laying waste to many areas. She explained that she stopped campaigning and pitched in to help, telling interviewers “I was out there every day helping people clean up the streets, empty their homes of debris, get them food, get them water, get them clothing.”
“I am somebody who is from this community and knows this community well. I have built a good relationship with the residents by being there for them when they needed it, by rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, standing up to the insurance companies, the bureaucracy, and standing up to the Mayor when he tried to bring heroin injection centers to our city. I fought back and got the US attorney and the mayor to back off,” she states.
“I also have been fighting for property tax relief for this community, because the mayor has increased property taxes over 50% since being elected,” she says. “During the mayor’s race I brought focus to this issue and I was able to get a property tax commission established which would lower taxes for this community if (the proposals) get adopted, and that’s where we are now.”
Additionally, she states, “During Covid I delivered 100,000 pieces of PPE to the front lines, I helped hundreds of people who were having difficulty getting their unemployment. I have been there for this community and when people need assistance they call me and we are accessible. Because of that, we have developed a good relationship with this community.
“That’s why I’m going to win,” Malliotakis says with complete determination. “My opponent has not been accessible.” Expanding on that, the candidate relates that Rose “had a constituent who was a WWII veteran who I just helped get citizenship papers for because the Congressman ignored him.
“This is a WWII hero,” she says in disbelief. “If you don’t have the time to help a WWII veteran, who are you going to help? Constituent services matter. And my office has been very diligent in helping people. We are there for them, and they know it.”
“They are also looking for somebody who is going to fight for them, like I did against the heroin injection site. Fighting to get property taxes lowered, fighting to get toll relief; these are issues that people know they need someone to fight for and they know I am there for them — for the hardworking, taxpaying citizen.”
Member of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association
Malliotakis also relates with pride that she has been a member of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association for years, a body consisting of elected officials of Greek descent from around the world who work on problems of importance to the Greek diaspora.
Lately they have taken stands on issues such as the continued Turkish aggression in the Mediterranean, the occupation of Cyprus, the conversion of Hagia Sophia, and others, including the refugee crisis. “It’s important for the community that we have another Greek-American at the federal level,” Malliotakis says, “who will bring attention to these issues that we care about.”
“My race is tight,” she adds. “It is a race to the end. The support I will receive from other Greek-Americans until the very end will make all the difference.”