Year 2018 was considered an anomaly by many when the virtually unknown and first time office-seeker Max Rose stunned the fairly-reliable red New York Congressional District 11, covering Staten Island and South Brooklyn, with a victory over incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Donovan. But 2020 is shaping up to be a fierce battle between Rose and likely Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis, who has been a powerhouse with fundraising, pulling in over $300,000 in her campaign’s first mandatory federal filing. Malliotakis, who is currently an Assemblywoman in Staten Island, and mostly well-known for her mayoral run against Bill Deblasio, is pulling major face time support from current Congresspeople like Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and the house minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Although Malliotakis may easily win the nomination, primary challengers are sure to be obstacles for the Congressional hopeful. A Youtube prankster turned politician, Joey “Salads” Saladino has thrown his hat in the ring with a hard line pro-Trump message. In 2016, Staten Island voted for President Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton by 15 points. Saladino has claimed to be the only Pro-Trump candidate in the district, undoubtedly in reference to Malliotakis’s past criticism of the President.
A primary challenge may still come from City Council member Joe Borelli, who recently launched a bid for Public Advocate, but has evaded questions about jumping in the congressional race. Another outsider and Island native, Rich Castaldo, has also previously hinted at a run for the seat but recently appeared with Malliotakis at a fundraiser in a photo posted to Twitter last week. Castaldo and Borelli may still enter the race, further complicating the path for the NYS Assemblywoman and her quest to face off against Rose in November.
Who has the best chance against Rose?
Fundraising and motivating the pro-Trump base are likely going to be the two biggest factors in defeating Rose, who has stood on both sides of many issues, even those that seem counter-intuitive to the districts heavily-entrenched Trump base.
Malliotakis will surely be the Republican candidate with the largest amount of cash-on-hand but her past comments about Trump in 2016 during her failed Mayoral run in 2017 might cut into a critical group of support in 2020.
Are any of the other potential candidates strong enough to defeat Rose?
Castaldo is gaining notoriety Island-wide but has yet to earn the support of apparatus that is key to victory in the tight-knit political landscape of the island. Castaldo brings with him experience as a political consultant and campaign manager to the table as he is coming off two victorious Republican upsets in New Jersey, the first being the Bridgewater mayoral race where he ran the digital ad campaign and the second, a huge upset victory in the Morris County Surrogate’s race, as the acting campaign manager for the winner Heather Darling. Campaign experience is certainly a notch on the belt of Castaldo who can surely pursue an alternate seat apart from the busy Congressional battle.
Borelli may be the strongest Trump candidate as he was the chair of the President’s New York campaign and has been a die-hard, never flinching Trump supporter from the South Shore. Borelli has the experience and the party support needed to undertake a serious race against Rose. Borelli has become well known by often making appearances on FOX News Channel and FOX Business to often advocate for the President’s message. Borelli’s challenge to Public Advocate Jummani Williams can also raise his name recognition citywide, giving him another advantage over other candidates, as the 2017 Mayoral race did for Malliotakis. Councilman Borelli would surely pull out the Island’s largest Trump supporting zone on the south shore which alone could make both the primary and the general competitive.
Joey “Salads” Saladino will have a lot to answer for when his YouTube prank videos begin to resurface, as pictures of a social experiment where Salads pretended to be a nazi have repeatedly resurfaced. Inevitably, context can be omitted by the media, and instead the imagery will outweight the purpose of the productions. Not many people are taking Saladino seriously, and we are yet to see if he is going to raise the massive amount of funds needed to be competitive in both the primary and the general for NY-11. Saladino may actually harm the eventual nominee by forcing others to spend much needed money early on.
District 11 is shaping up to be an interesting and competitive race, with more possible candidates coming to surface. Whether Max Rose can be de-throned after serving just one term in the last red hold out of New York City is soon to be realized.
Sean Porter, NYX News contributor.