Malliotakis, Rose lambast each other for missing local debates

nicole malliotakis at dyker heights debate
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and her opponent, former congressmember Max Rose, are in a back-and-forth of criticism after Rose skipped an Oct. 11 debate hosted by the Dyker Heights Civic Association.
Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis/Twitter

The race for NY-11 is heating up, with incumbent U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and her opponent, former congressmember Max Rose, pointing fingers at one another for dodging local debates for the city’s only swing seat.

Rose most recently came under fire for declining to attend an Oct. 11 debate hosted by the Dyker Heights Civic Association, whose namesake neighborhood is fully situated within the boundaries of the 11th Congressional District, which also spans a large section of southwestern Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The former congressmember told the civic group he had another commitment, according to Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone, who also serves as chair of the Kings County Conservative Party.

nicole malliotakis and max rose
Rose told the civic association he had a prior engagement and couldn’t make the debate, but declined to comment further on his decision to skip. Malliotakis said his absence was “disrespectful.” File photo by Tom Callan / Max Rose for Congress. 

“Max Rose said he couldn’t make it, he had another commitment, but other than that it went fine,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “Congresswoman Malliotakis came. She accepted the invitation and we allowed her to speak.”

At the mic that night, the sitting congressmember slammed her opponent’s behavior as “disrespectful” and credited Rose’s absence for his support of policies that she claimed the Dyker Heights community is not in favor of.

“His decision to skip the civic association’s debate is disrespectful to the community but not surprising considering his support for the disastrous bail reform law, Biden’s inflationary spending and late-term abortion until birth that are not popular in the district,” Malltiotakis said in a statement to Brooklyn Paper. “This community wants someone who will stand up to Nancy Pelosi, not be her rubber stamp.”

Four other candidates from other local races participated in the association’s debate: Longtime Democratic Assemblymember Peter Abbate of the 65th District faced off against Republican newcomer Lester Chang and Democratic Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus went up against former Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, who earlier this year changed parties to challenge Frontus for the 46th District seat. 

Two other Democratic candidates — state Senator Andrew Gounardes and Iwen Chu — declined to attend the civic association’s debate. Gounardes is running against Republican Brian Fox to represent the redrawn Senate District 26, representing a wide swath of Brooklyn along the East River, including Dyker Heights, and Chu will face off against Republican Vito LaBella in the all-new Senate District 17, the first and only Asian-majority state Senate district in Brooklyn. Fox and LaBella both participated in the Oct. 11 debate.

A representative for Chu declined to comment for this story, and Gounardes’ campaign said in a statement that the state senator also had a prior commitment.

Vella-Marrone told Brooklyn Paper she invited the candidates a month out from the debate, and that she had not heard back from Rose’s campaign until she reached out a second time, at which point, she said, Rose’s campaign manager told her his office hadn’t received the initial invitation.

“By the end of September and I was getting concerned that I hadn’t heard anything because some of the other candidates had already responded,” she said.

Rose’s camp eventually told Vella-Marrone that the former congressmember would be unable to make the debate due to a prior commitment, and allegedly asked to reschedule — a request the civic association could not accommodate because other candidates had already accepted the invitation, and because the debate was scheduled to take place during the group’s monthly meeting.

“We’re a civic association, it’s our regular scheduled meeting,” Vella-Marrone said. “And the time slots were the time slots because we had other candidates.”

Rose also did not attend the group’s debates during his two previous runs in 2020 and 2018.

“He hasn’t shown for any of them, we invite him every year, whoever is running we invite and he responded no to both times,” the association president said. “Even last year when he was a sitting congressman, he responded negatively. I don’t know why he doesn’t want to come to our debates, we’re just a civic association.”

max rose
Rose campaigned at the Staten Island ferry days after he missed a Dyker Heights Civic Association debate — and criticized Malliotakis for not committing to a NY1 debate. Max Rose/Twitter

Rose’s campaign declined to comment on the record about his non-attendance. The candidate said on Twitter on Oct. 11 that he would be headed to the Army Reserves starting on Saturday, Oct. 15.

“You won’t be hearing from me during that time (or seeing my ads). I will see you all back out there soon enough,” he wrote. 

However, the day after the civic association’s debate, Rose’s campaign released a statement calling out Malliotakis for her failure to commit to an upcoming NY1 debate. His camp released another Tuesday morning.

“Nicole has had a hard time explaining her extreme, out-of-touch positions on everything from abortion to guns so it’s no shock that she’s so far refused to accept NY1’s debate invitation,” Rose said. “The voters of Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve debates – what’s Nicole waiting for?”

Rose charges that Malliotakis has declined to partake in the NY1 debate in an effort to dodge difficult questions related to her stances on issues such as abortion.

“It’s no surprise that after I called Nicole out on CBS for her extreme abortion stances and weak position on gun violence that she’s decided to skip the only scheduled cable TV debate in this campaign,” the candidate’s Oct. 18 statement read. “The voters of Brooklyn and Staten Island simply deserve better from our elected officials, who should not run scared of tough questions about the future of our city and our country. If you can’t take a few questions, then you don’t deserve to be in Congress.”

Malliotakis’ campaign would not confirm to Brooklyn Paper whether or not she planned to attend the upcoming televised debate, but the pol herself responded to her opponent’s accusations on Twitter Tuesday morning, seemingly blaming the network’s politics.

“Happy to debate my opponent, but not my opponent AND the moderator,” Malliotakis tweeted.