The pro-Trump, anti-socialist playbook
New York’s 11th District reflects a trend for how the GOP narrowed the margin in the House
Come January, Congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis will take her seat on Capitol Hill as the Republican Party’s only representative from New York City. The 11th District, which spans conservative-leaning Staten Island and a slice of southern Brooklyn, flipped from red to blue in 2018 when Max Rose toppled incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Donavan in the blue wave that gave Democrats control of the House. Malliotakis, and a group of similar Republican House candidates across the country, won the seat back by sticking close to President Donald Trump and tying her Democratic opponent to progressive policies.
As of Thursday, 10 House races remained too close to call, but Republicans had already increased their number and emboldened the GOP House minority by recapturing tight swing districts from freshman Democrats. Unlike in the 2018 midterm elections, voters turned out to support the top of the ticket, likely fueling the gains.
Malliotakis expressed some hesitations about voting for Trump in 2016 but voiced a full-throated endorsement of the president in 2020, and he returned the favor. She had never run for federal office, but she had name recognition due to a 2017 mayoral bid and a stint as a state assemblywoman.
Her campaign aggressively ran ads tying Rose to the police defunding movement and a bail reform measure that proved unpopular in the 11th District. While Rose said he opposed defunding the police, Malliotakis’ law-and-order platform won endorsements from the city’s five police unions, which tend to back Democrats. The district is also home to a high concentration of conservative-leaning Catholics and city employees, including police officers.
“We’ve seen great advances by Republican women winning both federal seats and local seats during this election, and it’s [for] a variety of reasons but I think that we’re seeing a reaction to the lawlessness … the looting that took place during the summer,” said Rob Ryan, communications director for Malliotakis’ campaign. “People are worried, families are worried. They’re concerned about what’s going on with their neighborhood and their cities.”
The daughter of Cuban and Greek immigrants, Malliotakis’ anti-socialism message is personal. Her mother fled Cuba as a refugee, and she said she still has relatives that live under the country’s oppressive regime.
“She feels it’s time for America to push back against socialism and it’s time [for] people who have experienced socialism, whether directly or through their families, to speak up and explain what socialism does,” Ryan said.
The Cook Political Report predicted the district would be one of the closest races, but Malliotakis won by nearly 58 percent to Rose’s 42. Trump beat Joe Biden in the district with nearly 60 percent of the votes.
Republicans running with similar strategies to Malliotakis recaptured battleground districts in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico, and elsewhere. Republican Michelle Fischbach flipped Minnesota’s 7th District, defeating 15-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson.
Ryan expressed confidence Malliotakis will do what it takes to keep the district red, including in nonpresidential election years: “Nicole is someone who really works when she’s in office. That’s the record she’s had and [how] she served in the New York State Assembly.”
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