STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Joseph Caldarera thinks Rep. Max Rose needs to be replaced with a conservative voice loyal to President Trump in the 2020 election, and thinks he’s the candidate to do it.
The graduate of Monsignor Farrell High School plans to officially launch his campaign for the congressional seat covering Staten Island and part of South Brooklyn on Saturday at the St. George ferry terminal at 12 p.m.
“I think there’s an opportunity for there to be a Republican candidate who’s a true conservative to run against the current congressman,” he said in an interview with the Advance.
He feels that his most established opponent in the primary, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore), has voted “with the liberal agenda,” and not supported Trump. His other opponent, Joseph Saladino — a former YouTuber who went by “Joey Salads” — has similarly based his campaign on loyalty to the president.
Malliotakis campaign spokesman Rob Ryan said during her time in office the assemblywoman has been a “strong and reliable conservative voice against Bill de Blasio, the Albany liberals and their high taxes, wasteful spending and pro criminal policies.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Ryan said of Caldarera questioning Malliotakis’ conservative credentials. “Everyone knows Assemblywoman Malliotakis has been endorsed by the Conservative Party the five times she’s been elected to the Assembly and in her race for mayor.”
Malliotakis was the chairwoman of Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, but supported Trump after he secured the nomination.
While basing much of his campaign on loyalty to the president and his agenda, Caldarera, 27, made it clear that he hopes to be his own man if elected to Congress.
“I represent myself and my own values, but I am a strong supporter and advocate of his agenda, and his accomplishments in Washington,” he said.
When asked what he saw as Rose’s biggest shortcoming, Caldarera answered that it was the first-term congressman’s support of the impeachment inquiry.
“He’s siding with the left. He’s siding with the radicals in Washington D.C. to continue to go after the president, and to create these witch hunts and these endless investigations,” Caldarera said.
Rose’s campaign responded to Caldarera’s criticism citing his work to secure funding for the seawall and the 9/11 Victim Compensation fund, and his lobbying for a continued toll discount and against flood insurance increases.
“In less than a year, Max Rose passed the law to finally get the seawall built, successfully protected our toll discount, beat back FEMA’s secret efforts to raise premiums on homeowners, and permanently funded the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund,” a spokesman for Rose said.
He also wished Caldarera well in the GOP contest.
Rose opposed impeachment, even writing an opinion piece in the Advance explaining his opposition and calling for unity between Democrats and Republicans, before news broke on a phone call the president made with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On the July 25 phone call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic primary at the time — and his son Hunter Biden over work the younger Biden did for Ukrainian energy giant Burisma.
He also asked Zelensky to investigate the company Crowdstrike, which is part of a conspiracy theory that the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee was a setup based on fabricated computer records and designed to cast blame on Russia.
The theory, which lacks evidence, posits that CrowdStrike, a security firm hired by the DNC detected and stopped the hack five months before the election.
On Oct. 17, Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed to reporters during a press briefing that part of the reason Trump withheld American aid from the Eastern European country was to encourage the investigation into what happened in 2016 with Crowdstrike.
Caldarera, who served as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, said in his interview that when looking at what has come out so far, it was clear the president had not committed a crime.
During his time at the Brooklyn DA’s office, Caldarera said he wanted to work there, because it’s the busiest in the city, and that worked in the Special Victims Bureau.
“I’ve been able to work with people,” he said of his time as a prosecutor. “I’ve been able to really feel some of the real issues that affect all of us.”
In addition to his work as a prosecutor, Caldarera, a native of Annadale, said he’s worked with various Republican campaigns, and started working as a political intern at 15 with former South Shore Councilman Vincent Ignizio.
His work with Iginizio would later include a role in constituent services, Caldarera said. He also interned with Daniel Donovan and Michael Grimm during their times as district attorney and congressman, respectively.
Caldarera said he did not consider a run for a lower office before running for Congress. He said his focus on the position is another thing separating him from Malliotakis.
“It seems to be that in her nearly-10 years of being our Assembly person, rather than focus on passing legislation to help Staten Island and to help South Brooklyn, my opponent’s loyalty has been to herself and to her own political agenda,” he said.
The candidate’s father Joseph Caldarera Sr., is a retired lieutenant from the NYPD, and is currently serving as the campaign’s chief fundraiser, Caldarera Jr. said. Speaking of his son’s character, the elder Caldarera spoke about Hurricane Sandy when his son was away at George Mason University in Virginia.
Caldarera Sr. said that after the storm, his son made his way back to Staten Island, and spent time volunteering on the South Shore after the storm.
“He wanted to be here for his family, and when he saw we were ok, he didn’t go right back to school,” Caldarera Sr. said. “He stayed here to go help people in Tottenville, and we worked side by side for days out there.”
Caldarera Jr. said that so far the response to his campaign has been “overwhelming” having already raised “several thousand” dollars in donations.
“It’s been really humbling to see so far that someone who’s launching their first political campaign could attract so many different people from the district,” he said.
The Republican Primary for New York’s District 11 is June 23rd, 2020.