Max Rose and Nicole Malliotakis spar over defunding police in heated debate

max rose
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Rep. Max Rose will face off in the contentious District 11 congressional race in November.
File photo by Tom Callan / Max Rose for Congress

Congressman Max Rose and Republican challenger Nicole Malliotakis fought tooth and nail in a NY1-Spectrum News debate on Wednesday night only weeks before the congressional election.

The showdown comes as Rose fights to hold onto his post representing the largely Republican 11th Congressional District, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Staten Island. Residents of the district voted Rose into office in 2018 by six points — two years after voting overwhelmingly for Trump by at least 10 points — making the race one of the country’s most contentious.

During the Oct. 14 debate, the tone of which reflected the brutality of the campaign trail, both candidates focused on police funding and reiterated their support for law enforcement. 

“I think that this is a critical moment where we should be investing in our police even more, that’s why I’ve led multiple efforts to increase funding to for law enforcement across the country, because that is part and parcel to making sure out institutions are as effective, efficient, and just as possible,” said Rose, a former Army veteran who’s focused on issues of national security during his tenure.

Malliotakis, an assemblywoman representing Staten Island and a sliver of Bay Ridge and a former mayoral candidate, said she voted for some police reforms in Albany, such as expanding the use of body cameras and banning chokeholds. Still, she lauded the NYPD as one of the best police departments in the country.

“When I am a member of Congress, I will be advocating for other local police departments to be following the great example that is the NYPD,” she said, emphasizing the support she has received from law enforcement groups. “The reality is that every single NYPD union is supporting me because I am the law and order candidate.”

The discussion grew more vicious as each candidate dug into the other’s history. Malliotakis harped on Rose’s votes in Washington, possibly in reference his vote for the Justice in Policing Act that aimed to ban certain police practices without reducing funding. She also grouped him with local Democratic leaders in favor of bail reform, and said that his attendance at one Black Lives Matter march where some protesters called for defunding the NYPD demonstrated his support for the cause.

Rose countered that he has long opposed New York State’s bail reform laws and believes only non-violent offenders should be released on bail. Rose criticized Malliotakis for apparently blaming him for state bail laws that were passed “under [her] watch,” prompting Malliotakis to launch into an attack of one-party Democratic rule. 

“It was under the watch of one-party Democratic rule in Albany,” she began, as moderator Errol Louis tried to move both candidates onto their next topic, eventually cutting Malliotakis’ microphone. 

The candidates also spoke on other hot-button issues, such as Rose’s controversial vote in support of President Donald Trump’s impeachment. Rose explained that he didn’t vote to impeach the president because of the Mueller report, but because of the Ukraine scandal, when Trump allegedly pressured Ukrainian officials to share damaging information about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

“When the Russian investigation, the Mueller report, came in, I said that that did not rise to the threshold of impeachment,” he said. “But certainly, I could have never predicted that something like Ukraine would happen — that the president would target an American citizen, utilize the state for his own political interests. And that for me did rise to impeachment.”

Rose and Malliotakis also battled over property taxes, coronavirus containment measures, and climate change mitigation. But when asked about their favorite pizza in the district, the pair shared more light-hearted responses. 

“I’d say Lee’s,” answered Rose.

“I’m smart enough not to answer that question,” said Malliotakis.