President Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis in the race for the 11th Congressional District, a key swing district in the battle for control of Congress.
Citing the Assemblywoman's support for his policies, including his crackdown on immigration, Trump said on Twitter that he was giving Malliotakis his "complete and total endorsement."
The endorsement could be a boon for the Malliotakis, whom represents New York's 64th Assembly District and lost to Mayor Bill de Blasio in the 2017 mayor's race. Trump is popular in the district, which he won by 10 points in the 2016 presidential election — and by over 50 points on Staten Island, which comprises a majority of the 11th Congressional District, which also includes parts of southern Brooklyn. Staten Island was the only borough Trump won in 2016.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, but voters have been known to favor the GOP. Most of Staten Island's elected offices are held by Republicans. And with a few exceptions, in recent years Republicans have won the congressional seat.
Democrat Max Rose was one of those exceptions, beating incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Donovan — who had Trump's endorsement — in November 2018, one of the biggest upsets as Democrats wrested back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rose was able to beat Donovan on both sides of the district, in both Brooklyn and Staten Island. The Army veteran dominated the North Shore of Staten Island and Brooklyn, and he also made inroads in areas that are typically GOP territory.
But during that campaign, Rose mostly stayed clear of the president. Likely cognizant of the political risks of angering Staten Islanders fond of Trump, Rose for years did not commit to supporting a potential impeachment inquiry. As he campaigned for Congress, he tried to pivot away from Trump, saying he didn't appreciate the president's rhetoric and avoided attacking him. Instead, Rose said he was willing to work with the president if he worked on some of his campaign promises like infrastructure and fighting the opioid epidemic.
But Rose has been a target of Malliotakis and Republicans for voting with House Democrats to impeachment Trump in December. That vote followed Rose initially not supporting the impeachment inquiry, not coming out in favor until October.
The congressman may have been considering the risk of losing support from Democrats further to the left in southern Brooklyn, a part of the district that turned out in strong numbers in his upset election win. Democrats, especially those further to the left, overwhelmingly supported impeaching Trump.
Malliotakis enjoys some name recognition from her run for mayor. As part of her campaign, she has pounced on Rose's impeachment vote, saying he caved to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and "the Socialist Squad."
"He is completely out of sync with this district. This is a district that wants our elected officials, that wants Congress, to actually go and do their job and work with the president to get things done," Malliotakis said in October. "Moving forward with endless investigations, moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, is doing nothing to lower our taxes, is doing nothing to secure our borders."
Already, Rose's seat has been a target of national Republicans, including an ominous ad aligning him with Pelosi.
In October, Rose said that didn't worry him. "I am not concerned by the NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee], or anyone who wants to try and challenge me, because they already tried once and we kicked their a--."
For his part, Rose's campaign on Wednesday announced it was launching a new ad to show the Assemblywoman's "fake support" of the president, calling her a "lobbyist" who previously did not support key items on Trump's agenda, such as the border wall. During her mayoral run in 2017, Malliotakis downplayed her vote for Trump in deep-blue New York.
"You have a choice, and I wasn't excited about either choice, and so I just voted for the person I thought would shake-up Washington," Malliotakis said. "It's dogging me down in this campaign even though I was never really a supporter of his."
Assuming Malliotakis and Rose are triumphant in their primary elections June 23, they are on track to face off in the general election on November 3.
This story includes reporting from Courtney Gross.
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