Former congressional representative Max Rose has thus far refused to debate his Democratic opponent Brittany Ramos DeBarros ahead of the Aug. 23 primary, where both are the top contenders for the chance to face incumbent Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis in the November general election.
Early voting in primary races for Congress and State Senate starts on Saturday, but Ramos DeBarros contends that voters in Staten Island and southern Brooklyn aren’t getting the chance to fully weigh the major candidates’ policies and records ahead of Election Day.
“Max Rose’s slogan this year is ‘courage to lead’ and yet he seems to lack the courage to even stand before voters or debate me on the issues,” Ramos DeBarros said on Twitter this week.
The criticism came after Rose pulled out of a planned Aug. 1 forum, hosted by reformist clubs New Kings Democrats and South Central Brooklyn United for Progress, where he would have come face-to-face with his primary challenger.
“This would have been the only time constituents heard from the two top frontrunners…together, and gathered information to make a clear choice between the candidates before voting in the upcoming primary,” the clubs wrote in a joint statement. “We are disappointed that Max Rose has refused to engage and we hope that he will reconsider this stance. NY-11 deserves better.”
Rose did not respond to a request for comment. Ramos DeBarros was the only candidate running in the primary to confirm she would participate. Neither Rose nor the third candidate, educator Dr. Komi Agoda-Koussema, RSVP’d to the forum.
The candidates are competing to face Malliotakis in the city’s only swing congressional district, which has had two Democratic and three Republican representatives since 2009. Rose served a single term after winning amidst the national “Blue Wave” in 2018, only to be defeated by Malliotakis in 2020.
Malliotakis, a former Assemblymember and candidate for mayor, has had a controversial term that began with her vote against certifying the 2020 election — based on Donald Trump’s bogus claims of widespread voter fraud — and has been bookended by distancing herself from her own anti-abortion political history following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Rose ran for and served in Congress as a centrist Democrat in the swing district, but Ramos DeBarros believes that the district’s working-class population is seeking a more progressive voice to represent them. The district looked set to be friendlier territory for the left-wing insurgent when Albany Democrats this year approved a map that radically redrew the district’s Brooklyn boundaries, shifting from purple southern Brooklyn nabes to solid blue coastal waterfront communities like Sunset Park and Park Slope.
But like most everything else in New York politics, that was upended when the maps were ruled unconstitutional and ordered redrawn. The final 11th District submitted by the court-appointed Special Master restored the Brooklyn boundaries to more-or-less what they were before: Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst.
The only public polling in the race so far was commissioned by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which found Malliotakis leading Rose by 15 points back in June.
Malliotakis herself has not participated in a debate with her own primary challenger, John Matland, who is challenging her from the right. A rep for the congresswoman declined to comment.