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National GOP Eyes Nicole Malliotakis to Flip Staten Island House Seat

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) is running for Congress.
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) is running for Congress. Photo: New York State Assembly

National Republicans are spending some green to help Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis to take back Staten Island’s congressional seat and nudge the borough back into the red.

Meanwhile, Staten Island’s five other GOP elected officials are either mum or undecided on whether they’ll back her House bid.

The split Beltway-Staten Island Expressway dynamic is playing out months after Malliotakis spoke with President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about running for Congress.

Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, donated $10,000 through his political PAC. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio’s PAC and Wyoming’s Rep. Liz Cheney’s campaign committee both chipped in $1,000, Malliotakis’ recent campaign filings show.

Rep. Max Rose, only the second Democrat to hold the borough’s congressional seat in three decades, boasts a $1 million war chest. His message to Malliotakis: “Bring it on.”

A ‘Blue Wave’ Survivor

National Republicans view flipping the seat, which also covers part of Brooklyn, as essential to taking back the House in 2020.

“She’s the only one to survive the ‘blue wave,’” noted Leticia Remauro, campaign manager for Malliotakis’ failed 2017 mayoral try.

The national GOP apparently also wants to keep its distance from ex-con and ex-congressman Michael Grimm, who lost a primary challenge last June and is said to be mulling another run for his old seat.

Malliotakis’ only current primary opponent is Joseph Saladino — a YouTube prankster known as “Joey Salads,” who has posted a series of sometimes-staged racist “hood prank” videos.

Grimm didn’t immediately return phone calls from THE CITY. Adam Korzeniewski, a spokesperson for Saladino, said “we’re not worried” about Malliotakis’ support from national Republicans.

Other Republican elected officials on Staten Island — Councilmember Joe Borelli, Councilmember Steve Matteo, State Sen. Andrew Lanza, Assemblymember Michael Reilly and Borough President James Oddo — either didn’t respond to inquiries or were undecided on whether to support Malliotakis.

“I have not endorsed her,” said Borelli. “Check back another time.”

A War Chest Gap

New York’s Conservative Party and the Brooklyn Young Republicans have donated to Malliotakis campaign, her latest filings show. In May, rising star Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) held a fundraiser for her in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, that was attended by Staten Island Republican leader Brendan Lantry and Brooklyn GOP chair Ted Ghorra.

“People in this district know that I’ll stand for them and fight against ‘The Squad’ because they’ve seen me do it with Sheldon Silver, Gov. Cuomo, and with Bill de Blasio,” said Malliotakis. “I’m not afraid of taking up a fight on behalf of my constituents.”

Malliotakis, the 38-year-old daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants, is taking advantage of the network of donors she forged during her mayoral effort. After hauling in $250,000 this past quarter, she’s got $475,000 on hand — less than half of Rose’s campaign funds.

But Malliotakis points to Trump’s landslide victory on Staten Island in 2016 and her own success in the borough during the 2017 mayoral election, when she nearly captured 70% of the county’s vote.

A ‘Path of Socialism’

She charges Rose hasn’t taken a hard enough line against progressive Democratic.

“This is the future of our country we’re talking about,” Malliotakis told THE CITY. “We’re either going to continue down the path of being a nation that provides opportunity and the American dream or we’re going to head down this path of socialism.”

Max Rose stops by a Staten Island diner during his 2018 congressional campaign.
Max Rose stops by a Staten Island diner during his 2018 congressional campaign. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Rose, a centrist Democrat who proudly wore a purple tie his first day in the Capitol, relentlessly focuses on local issues like the borough’s 5-mile seawall, transportation woes and the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

“I’m not surprised or concerned that all of DC’s special interests and their buddies are trying to replace me with a former lobbyist like Nicole Malliotakis. It’s actually hilarious they think that’s a good strategy. Bring it on,” Rose told THE CITY in a statement.

“I voted against the Speaker and I’ve taken on both parties like I promised my constituents, because unlike Nicole, my word means something,” he added. “She’s going to say a lot of garbage if she manages to survive her primary.”

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