Max Rose: Lit Enough to Politic
October 8th, 2018
One of the most important races taking place this midterm election season is in New York’s 11th congressional district. Comprising South Brooklyn and the historically conservative Staten Island, the 11th has had a Republican congressman since its creation in 2013 -- in fact, it is the only red district in the entirety of New York City. Now, though, that may all be changing. We have our first chance in a long time to flip the only Republican seat in New York City, take back the House of Representatives, and push the blue wave that much farther.
Over the years, districts change as census data shifts the way our states are cut up. In the 11th, the district’s Republican votes used to be balanced out by the Democratic ones that dominate the rest of the city. Since Congresswoman Yvette Clarke’s seat there was redistricted to the 9th, however, most of the Democratic votes have been redistricted, meaning that the concentration of Republican voters in Staten Island has resulted in the effective gerrymandering of the district. In essence, this has silenced the votes of Democrats in South Brooklyn.
In the district’s recent memory, it has been held by two Republican congressmen: Michael Grimm and Dan Donovan. Grimm ran for the first time in the district in 2012, but after upping the ante for a second term, he ran into some trouble when he was charged by the Department of Justice with perjury and tax fraud amounting to almost a million dollars. Despite denying all these allegations throughout his campaign, only a month after he was elected in 2014, he pled guilty and was sent to jail, leaving the seat vacant for four months.
Dan Donovan won the special election to replace Grimm and has held the seat to the present day. Most of this was while Grimm was in prison -- once he was exonerated, Grimm returned with the intent to reclaim what he thought of as his rightful seat in the 11th. This boiled down to a competitive Republican primary between Grimm and Donovan this past June.
In many elections, in order to prevent undue tarnishing of either candidate’s name, often the one running lower in the polls will concede early on and effectively be given a judgeship to appease them. But because Grimm is an ex-con, this course was legally unavailable to him because he cannot be appointed a judge, meaning he had to fight like hell to get his seat back or end up with nothing. Donovan, running against Grimm and polling slightly higher, had no intention of taking a lower position due to his influx of money from Corporate Political Action Committees (Corporate PACs). Additionally, because Staten Island, which comprises about two thirds of the district, voted for Trump in 2016 by a 15 point margin, they were both vying to appear the most Trumpian in the eyes of the voters. This amounted to a shouting match at their primary debates, with Donovan and Grimm calling each other “Desperate Dan” and “the convict congressman” respectively. But once President Trump endorsed Donovan, the race was effectively over, with Donovan winning by a 26 point margin.
That brings us to the present day and to why this district has its first serious chance to be flipped: in the general election, Donovan will be facing first-time challenger and army veteran Max Rose. Rose is new to politics -- he served as an active duty officer in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013, earning a Bronze Star, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and a Purple Heart. After moving back to the city, he worked as Director of Public Engagement and Special Assistant to the late Brooklyn District Attorney, as the Chief of Staff of the healthcare nonprofit Brightpoint, and as a captain in the National Guard. Having been a part of his campaign since March, I can say firsthand that not only does he give us a serious chance of winning, this man is qualified and deserving of being the district’s next Congressional Representative.
I know many students like myself who are involved in campaigns around the city, but almost all of them are Democratic candidates in Democratic districts, in which the result of losing is that we have a different Democrat in office. In this district, however, the alternative is a Trump-supporting, political tide-surfing, Corporate PAC recipient who has and will continue to get nothing done. This amounts to a much worse possible outcome in New York’s 11th than almost any other district in the city. If you’re politically active and you live within a commutable distance of either South Brooklyn (the last stop on the R line) or Staten Island (drive or take the ferry), I cannot recommend highly enough that you join this campaign. If this is at all interesting to you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you in touch with the campaign to volunteer.