January 3 was the last day of Max Rose’s first and only term in Congress representing Staten Island. Three days later, he watched the same Capitol he had served come under siege by Trump supporters. Then, after Congress reconvened, he watched 147 Republicans vote against certifying the presidential election’s results, including Nicole Malliotakis, who defeated him by six points.
Less than a year later, the Democrat wants a rematch, in large part over January 6.
“It’s clear as day that any Republican that has spent the past year supporting January 6 cop killers is not in the best of positions to lecture someone on public safety and support for law enforcement,” Rose said in an interview days after announcing his campaign to take back his old seat.
Rose, 35, told Intelligencer that he felt compelled to run by what he sees as the current state of the Republican Party, saying that many lawmakers still won’t say 2020 was a “legal certifiable election” and pointing to their recent “abject refusal” to vote to keep the government open and prevent a shutdown.
“They’re willing to inflict suffering upon tens of millions of Americans, just to prevent President Biden from having a win. It’s clear as day, as demonstrated by the fact that they won’t even provide solutions to inflation, that they are secretly, privately luxuriating in this spike in inflation and they want it to continue,” Rose said, his voice rising as he continued. “They’re literally rooting against America. That to me is something worth standing up against. That to me is a reason to run.”
After earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star while serving in Afghanistan, Rose decided to run for Congress in the Republican-held 11th District covering Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn. It didn’t look easy, given Donald Trump won it by double digits in 2016, but Rose flipped the seat in 2018 as part of a Democratic wave that put the party in the House Speaker’s office. Two years later, though, he was turned out by voters, losing to Malliotakis by six points. Rose’s effort may be tougher in 2022: Republicans across the city had unusual success this year and are favored to gain seats in the House next year. “First of all, I’m not running just against Nicole. I’m running against a system of politics and a governing style that she has refused to do anything to try and change, that she’s become a part of,” he said.
Malliotakis, in a statement, described Rose as a “rubber stamp” for Pelosi’s policies and claimed that he has embraced the Democratic Party’s most “radical elements.”
“As a member of Congress, I have spent every day fighting for my constituents, serving as their voice for commonsense leadership and holding the Biden administration accountable. I am extremely confident that voters will support my record and once again reject Max Rose, Nancy Pelosi, and their socialist agenda. Max Rose, you will be a two-time loser,” she said.
Both Rose and Malliotakis will still have to make it out of their respective primaries. Brittany Ramos DeBarros, a fellow Army veteran and community organizer, is also running for the Democratic nomination. Trump previously vowed to primary House Republicans that voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but told the New York Post in November that Malliotakis still has his support despite her vote.
When he represented the city’s most conservative borough, Rose didn’t shy away from bucking his own party. He was one of 15 Democrats who didn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi to return as Speaker of the House, and when he was locked in a tough race with Malliotakis last year, he cut a campaign video that simply said, “Bill de Blasio is the worst mayor in the history of New York City.”
Still, he was a reliable vote on Democratic policies, such as supporting a ban on the sale of assault weapons and co-sponsoring the For the People voting-rights bill. After George Floyd’s murder last summer, Rose marched in a Staten Island protest against police brutality and voted for the Justice in Policing Act, a criminal-justice reform bill. As he sought reelection, Malliotakis portrayed Rose as being sympathetic to the “defund the police” movement, a potent attack on Staten Island, home to many current and former NYPD officers. Rose has repeatedly pushed back on that characterization, but also has defended his participation in the march. “I’m proud that, in really difficult situations, it’s my sincere belief that we did the right thing. Even at great cost,” he said.
Rose praised his party for passing legislation that addressed infrastructure and the economy and for a return of civility to the White House, what he called “progress worth defending.” But he also expressed frustration at Democratic infighting about the direction the party should head in following this year’s Republican gains in New Jersey, Virginia, and the city.
“What I do know about politics, or at least what I believe, is that it’s not a good thing when a party forces themselves to choose between mobilization and persuasion, that you have to figure out how to do both, and we have the agenda for that,” Rose said. He said the Democratic Party has a winning agenda, pointing to its positions against rising prescription-drug prices and in favor of universal preschool and day care for American families. “So, let’s stop fighting and let’s start winning,” he said.
Since Rose left office, the country has been plagued by inflation, with customers facing higher prices for most goods and, in some cases, bare shelves in stores due to delays in the supply chain. “People have been overcome by this sheer exhaustion that’s reflected by or, I think, a consequence of these past few years and going crisis after crisis after crisis, from inflation to the pandemic and so much else,” Rose said. He said politicians shouldn’t attempt to “explain away people’s pain” and that aggressive action is needed to combat it. For instance, Rose, a member of the state National Guard himself, said guardsmen should be deployed to the nation’s ports to help off-load ships and ease supply-chain issues.
Above all, he said, the pandemic has exhausted voters after nearly two years. “We have to get our damn lives back and we have to beat back this pandemic,” he said. Days later, the Omicron variant would hit the city with full force. “We have to do everything possible to make sure that we are following and projecting science,” he said, “but we also have to make sure that we are doing everything possible to show people that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”