Democratic Rep. Max Rose defended his vote to impeach President Trump in a bare-knuckled virtual debate with Republican rival Nicole Malliotakis Wednesday night.
The race is considered one of the most competitive House contests in the country that could determine which party controls “the people’s house.”
“I do not regret what I did — political consequences be damned,” Rose said during a debate on NY1, the first of the campaign.
Rose initially opposed the House of Representatives’ push to impeach Trump, saying the report resulting from the special investigation into Russia collusion “did not rise to the level of impeachment.”
But Trump was later accused of breaking the law by pressuring Ukraine’s leader to dig up damaging information on Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Rose, seeking re-election to a second term in the 11th Congressional District that encompasses Staten Island and south Brooklyn, said Trump crossed the line when he used his power to prod a foreign leader to interfere in an American election.
“That the president would target an American citizen, utilize the state to advance his political interest — for me that did rise to the threshold of impeachment,” he said.
Rose, 33, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, also emphasized that he also applauded Trump for doing some things right — such as authorizing the drone strike that killed Iran general Qasem Soleimani.
Rose also said he stood behind the president at the White House when Trump signed an executive order to combat antisemitism at colleges. He also noted that Trump signed laws he sponsored or co-sponsored to make permanent the victims’ compensation fund for 9/11 responders and tackle the illegal distribution of fentanyl.
Trump carried the congressional district by ten points over Hillary Clinton 2016, and he has endorsed Malliotakis, a state assemblywoman since 2011, while slamming Rose for voting to impeach him.
During the debate, NY1 debate moderator Errol Louis reminded Malliotakis she was not always a big fan of Trump. She initially backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP primary for president in 2016 and spent her 2017 candidate for mayor distancing herself from Trump.
Malliotakis said she’s an unabashed Trump booster and blasted Rose for voting for the “most partisan” impeachment measure.
“Of course I support the president. He’s done a good job,” the assemblywoman said, adding that Rose and other Democrats “have tried to interrupt everything he attempted to accomplish.”
Both candidates said they support efforts to restore the right of New Yorkers to fully deduct state and local taxes on their federal tax returns. Trump and the GOP-led Congress limited the deduction to $10,000 — impacting mostly higher-income New Yorkers — to finance other tax cuts.
They also saber-rattled over their records on the coronavirus pandemic, public safety and dueling marches.
Rose, who fought to secure Staten Island getting the first COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in the city, accused Malliotakis of recently participating in a pro-Trump “super spreader event” on Staten Island where many attendees didn’t wear masks.
Malliotakis, who had her mic cut off at one point for failing to abide by speaking rules, slammed Rose for participating in a Black Lives Matter/anti-police brutality march following the death of George Floyd that ended at the NYPD’s 122nd Precinct. She has the backing of the police unions.
“Max was marching in front of police precinct with the anti-police crowd,” said Malliotakis, noting that some of the marchers carried signs such as “Blue Lives Murder” and “defund the police.”
“That, to me, is unconscionable,” he said.
Rose defended his participation in what he described as a peaceful, law-abiding march.
The congressman noted Malliotakis participated in a pro-cop rally in south Brooklyn where marchers carried signs including “I hope you get raped” and “black lives are garbage.”
“I would never characterize her sentiments by a ‘small minority.’ That to me is reprehensible,” he said.
Malliotakis, 39, said a vote for Rose would keep House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and democratic socialist firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in power. She noted the House Democratic Majority PAC overseen by Pelosi is spending $500,000 on ads attacking her.
Malliotakis, whose mother fled communist Cuba, said she would “stand against socialism.”
Rose said he voted against making Pelosi, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, speaker and would do so again if re-elected.
The congressman quipped he’d be “happy to find a real estate agent to find a place in San Francisco” to Malliotakis to run against Pelosi.
The candidates both accused the other of lying about each other’s record. Rose said Malliotakis and the GOP have smeared him as a supporter of defunding the police. Malliotakis said Rose and the Dems have distorted her record on taxes.
During the lightning round, Rose said he supported the legalization of marijuana, while Malliotakis opposed legalizing weed.
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