Exclusive: Newly Elected Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis Weighs in on the Issues
BAY RIDGE — Election Day 2020 was a great day for Nicole Malliotakis, who was able to reclaim the 11th District Congressional seat held by incumbent Max Rose.
Rose had claimed the seat in 2018 after defeating Republican Dan Donovan, a former Staten Island district attorney. The purported blue wave that swept through the district left Malliotakis the only Republican-Conservative standing, not only in Southern Brooklyn but also in the entire borough.
The 11th Congressional District encompasses all of Staten Island and parts of South Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst. South Brooklyn remains the only Conservative bastion within the borough.
Malliotakis, the daughter of a Greek Orthodox father and a Cuban Catholic mother, proudly proclaimed her victory in a moving speech that spoke of her “common-sense conservative values” while voicing support for the NYPD and all law enforcement and first responders.
New York State Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar said that faith and family values made all the difference in this year’s election. “Values voters are one of the more overlooked coalitions that came together to influence voting behavior this year. In particular, I believe many Catholics, including myself, took into consideration when choosing who they would support, a candidate’s positions on issues ranging from the sanctity of life to support for school choice,” Kassar told The Tablet at the time.
Brooklyn Conservative Party Chair Fran Vella-Marrone added that she was proud of Malliotakis for running on the Conservative Party line and advocating for religious freedom and the sanctity of life. “These positions are part of the Conservative Party platform. Nicole Malliotakis reflects these views and will support legislation that will safeguard and promote the right to freely practice our faith and the fundamental right to life,” said Vella-Marrone.
Malliotakis, the first Hispanic American elected from Richmond County, won the State Assembly seat in 2010 and worked hard on initiatives benefiting her district, focusing on quality-of-life issues that she claimed were falling by the wayside.
She took the time to talk with The Tablet about what some of her first initiatives will be in Congress.
The Tablet: First of all, congratulations on your win. You are the only Republican-Conservative in the New York City Congressional delegation. What are some of the first issues you will tackle in office?
Nicole Malliotakis: Well, unfortunately, it’s a very difficult time for our city and our nation. We are facing many issues that need bipartisan cooperation, and one of those issues is obviously the pandemic. I’m very hopeful that with the vaccine on the horizon, we will be able to distribute it quickly to our most vulnerable citizens and our front-line workers. I believe that will relieve a lot of the pressure we are experiencing as a society. I think that it’s critical that we have a balanced approach to reopening our state, and I’m very concerned about the impact the Mayor and the Governor’s arbitrary restrictions have had on our small businesses. And so I do believe that it’s critical that Washington pass a Covid relief package that releases the already allocated funds for the PPP program that will help small businesses. We also have to address the issue of unemployment because there are still so many Americans without work and so we want to provide them with assistance, while also reopening the economy and restoring the jobs lost here and all across the country. That is the priority of the new Congress and what I’m certainly focused on at this time.
You represent Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the only Republican stronghold in New York City. How will this make your job harder in Congress?
Well, I think it’s very important that New York City has bipartisan representation in Washington. Unfortunately, the delegation has gone so far to the left with (U.S. Rep.) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that we need someone who is going to push back and hold her and others accountable when they are not doing the right thing on behalf of our community and American citizens. I believe that the New York delegation needs to find ways to work together where there’s common ground. At the end of the day, it’s us versus 49 other states fighting for resources, fighting for aid, so we need to work together when it comes to issues like transportation or education. Those are areas that shouldn’t be controversial and I think we can find common ground. People should know that I want to work with anyone and everyone who shares the same goals as I do, but when they’re not doing the right thing by my community I’m going to stand up and fight back against them.
You have spoken out before against the left-leaning views of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and vowed to form your own anti-socialist “squad” embracing conservative values. How will you do this?
There are natural alliances formed among the freshman class in Congress. There are individuals like me who have similar family backgrounds like Florida U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, a Cuban-born refugee who came here when he was six-years-old; Victoria Spartz from Indiana, who is Ukrainian born and grew up under Soviet Union rule; and Maria Salazar from Florida, who is also the daughter of Cuban refugees. We are all bonded by our love of freedom, our desire to preserve liberties and to ensure that we preserve the American dream for future generations. We became fast friends during orientation and while we’re not a formal group, even though the media has branded us the ‘freedom force,’ we are just individuals who are very passionate about stopping socialism because we know what it is through the experiences of our families. We’re going to hold the squad accountable and push back on their very dangerous and radical agenda.
You have received strong support from the New York State and Brooklyn Conservative Parties. New York State Chair Jerry Kassar and Brooklyn Chair Fran Vella-Marrone have said that you have brought a common-sense voice back to the borough. Would you elaborate?
I believe that my predecessor did not share the values of the district. It was evident on several occasions when he voted to impeach the president and when he marched with the ‘defund the police’ crowd.’ Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn have always been the most conservative parts of our city, and I think what you saw on election night was the citizens of this district speaking out against the actions of Max Rose, against the actions of Mayor de Blasio, against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York City moving so far to the left. This is a community that supports our police and wants public safety, wants quality education for our children, and a strong economy. All of that is in jeopardy right now under the current leadership with de Blasio and the one-party rule.
So do you feel the Conservative-Republican presence is still as strong within your district?
I do, and the numbers are evident. The Conservative Party line received a significant number of votes. Even the Democrats in this district are conservative-minded. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if I received some Democratic votes on the Conservative line.
In the past, you have voiced your support for immigrants in the community but strongly opposed undocumented immigration. How has being the daughter of a Greek immigrant father and a Cuban exile mother helped define your ideals and views on this issue?
I appreciate the aspirations of the American dream. To me it’s personal. In one generation my parents, who came here as very poor immigrants, have a daughter who will serve in the United States Congress. And that is what truly makes this nation so unique and special. I want to preserve that American dream for future generations, but we also are a land of laws and we need to ensure that people are respecting our immigration process. Does it need to be modernized? Absolutely, but we cannot continue to incentivize those who are here illegally. Instead, we need to streamline the process so that those who want to come here can achieve the American dream and be contributing citizens. So, I disagree with policies that provide free college or driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. I believe that we need to have a visa entry and exit system. We also need to streamline our very antiquated immigration system so people don’t have to wait so many years to become citizens of our great country. We also need to know who is coming into our country and to have a process in place to track that.
As a follow-up – The Bishops have expressed their support for DACA on several occasions. What do you think we should do with the special cases of dreamers who are already here and were brought here by their parents? Shall we send them back to their countries or open a way for them to become citizens?
First of all, DACA was never meant to be a permanent solution. It was a Band-Aid to a problem. It has to be part of the negotiation of a larger immigration proposal. I think there is bipartisan support for modernizing our immigration system. I think that one of the things that needs to be implemented is a visa entry and exit system, to verify and insure that we know who is coming in and out of our country. President Trump had expressed a willingness to work out a solution for the DACA children as part of a larger negotiation.
The bishops have expressed their condemnation of the death penalty and the decision of the Trump administration to resume federal executions this year. Could you please explain your views on this issue?
The Federal Death penalty should be used sparingly in extreme cases like convicted terrorists.
From today’s headlines, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Diocese of Brooklyn about churches remaining open, citing that Governor Cuomo’s executive order violated the First Amendment. You’ve strongly voiced your support for this decision agreeing with Bishop Di Marzio that the restrictions imposed by Cuomo were an overreach.
Faith-based values played a huge role in my election as did my opposition to the efforts of some elected officials who used the COVID-19 outbreak as a reason to place uncalled for restrictions on churches and other houses of worship throughout the city. I was pleased to see that the Supreme Court ruled that Cuomo’s arbitrary restrictions on houses of worship were unconstitutional. It made no sense to me and so many New Yorkers that a house of worship could only have 10 or 25 people regardless of the building’s capacity size. And I think that it was a significant victory for not only freedom-loving Americans but for those of us who have been saying all along that the governor’s restrictions were arbitrary and nonsensical.
Your former opponent has recently announced that he wants to run for mayor. As someone who ran for that office in 2017, what advice would you give Max Rose?
(Laughs) Look, there are few people who can do worse than Bill de Blasio. There are three areas where I’d like to see any candidate for mayor focus. The first is getting our economy back on track, the second is fully supporting our NYPD with the resources they need to keep us safe, and the third is to finally fix what has been a broken property tax system that unfairly targets working class, middle class families in the outer boroughs. Those are the three things I’m going to be looking for in a candidate – someone who is serious about those issues.
Would you consider running for mayor again next year now that you are a leading figure in the Republican Party?
No. No. I’m very excited to be going to Congress. There’s a lot of work ahead of us and while I feel strongly that we need a very strong mayor who is going to use common sense and be someone who is strong enough to reopen the economy and fix New York City’s fiscal situation. But it won’t be me. I have no intentions of running for anything right now. I just got elected to Congress and that’s where I feel like I can make the biggest difference. I really feel that it’s important that New York City has a conservative voice representing it in Washington. I’m the only one and so there are a lot of people depending on me.