With Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge, Staten Island) standing pat and not speaking to the press about her upcoming Republican Congressional Primary, her GOP opponent, former Staten Island Assistant DA Joe Caldarera delivered some stinging critiques how she can run but she can’t hide while touting his endorsements from the NRA and former Staten Island GOP Chairman Joe Antoniello.
The winner of the primary will face U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island) in what is expected to be a hotly contested two-party political battle in the November general election.
“He (Antoniello) came out with a statement that I am the only one this race who was pro-life, the only one in this race who is pro-Second Amendment, and the only one who fully supports the President of the United States,” said Caldarera, calling Malliotakis “barely a step to the right of Rose.”
He then accused Malliotakis of flip-flopping on key issues, citing her 2017 mayoral campaign. “That’s how we knew her on Staten Island and Bay Ridge as this `Never Trump’ candidate was running for mayor. She was going to be different than other Republicans because she didn’t support the president,” Caldarera recalled.
“And now to run for Congress and do a complete 180 without explanation and when pushed by the press, her response is `I was being sarcastic,’” he scoffed. “She’s trying to pull a fast one on the voters, it’s pandering.”
Caldarera then discussed his major policy priorities “which affect us on both sides of the Verrazano Bridge” which include autism and other disability services as well as the opioid crisis.
“We have a three-year backlog right now in New York City for government-appointed attorneys to help those with autism and those with disabilities,” he said. “The bureaucracy is so intense that you cannot possibly navigate it without the help of a legal counsel, and we don’t have any representatives who are doing anything about that.
As the son of a former NYPD commanding narcotics officer who has lost three friends to opioids, Caldarera proposes more funding for drug courts, inpatient programs, and early drug education for children.
“We need more funding for more programs to go to the school and speak to the children and make sure that they don’t get involved with the wrong crowd and the wrong stuff with the drugs in the first place,” he said.
“We used to think that we could get through to these kids in fifth or sixth grade. Now, we’re realizing that we have to speak to children from an earlier age, first, second grade.”
Caldarera also blasted Malliotakis for investing in Staten Island at Bay Ridge’s expense.
“I am from Staten Island, and I’m proud of that, but I’ve got Brooklyn roots,” he said. “My mother’s from Bensonhurst, and my father’s from Gravesend. I used to wait tables at L&B Spumoni Gardens during the summers home from college. I was a Brooklyn prosecutor. I went to Brooklyn Law School, so I know Brooklyn. It’s in my heart, and I’m going to fight for the people in Brooklyn just as much as I’m going to fight for the people in Staten Island.”
In the meantime, Democrats have put in much effort to keep the seat, which has one of the city’s few meaningful Republican constituencies. Part of this effort involves promoting ads targeting moderate establishment choice Malliotakis.
“Since entering the race last year, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis has been repeatedly attacked by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because they [sic] that she is the only candidate who can defeat Max Rose and they will do or say anything to block her victory,” said Rob Ryan, her spokesman.
“Assemblywoman Malliotakis is endorsed by the Republican and Conservative Party county committees in both Brooklyn and Staten Island, she’s endorsed by President Trump and the Republican leadership of the House; she will be the Republican nominee,” he added.