Max Rose is officially plotting a comeback bid.
The Staten Island Democrat is preparing to launch a rematch as soon as this fall against GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis — and Rose may get a leg up, given the seat will likely become far more favorable in redistricting. It’s a rare spot of optimism for House Democrats in the uphill battle to keep their majority.
The 34-year old Army veteran was one of 13 House Democrats who fell to GOP challengers in the 2020 election, which was brutal for down-ballot candidates. Rose would be the second of those to formally declare another campaign, while half a dozen more continue to mull another run.
Rose has begun hiring a campaign team since leaving his post on President Joe Biden’s Covid task force in June, as well as reaching out to supporters in anticipation of another run, according to sources close to the former congressman.
“He’s rocking and rolling,” said a source close to Rose who addressed the planned campaign on condition of anonymity. “He’s been assembling a team, talking to donors, speaking with community leaders. He’s been doing all the steps to line up to potentially make an announcement.”
Rose lost to Malliotakis in November by 6 points after she aggressively attacked him as anti-police for attending a Black Lives Matter protest that was held amid a nationwide reckoning over racial justice. The cop-heavy New York district favored former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
But that is likely about to change. Democrats are in control of redistricting in the state and plan to heavily press their advantage to take out Republican incumbents.
The new district will almost certainly include Staten Island but could trade its current piece of Brooklyn for a more liberal section. The 11th District currently includes a significant portion of white, blue-collar Brooklynites, who tend to vote more conservatively than the rest of the rapidly diversifying borough.
Rose’s allies believe he will make the case against Malliotakis by focusing on her voting record, including her vote against creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol. And Malliotakis is signaling she will hammer Rose as she did before, by trying to tie him to the party’s left flank.
“The people of this district have already made themselves clear and they don’t want an anti-police, Pelosi puppet who flirts with socialism representing them in Congress,” Malliotakis said in a statement when asked for comment about Rose’s expected entry into the race.
The Purple Heart recipient known for his populist politics and blunt style was elected in 2018, the first time his district had voted for a Democrat in nearly 40 years. In office, Rose often relished going after his own party, opposing Nancy Pelosi as speaker and running highly critical ads against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
After his loss, Rose worked at the Pentagon for several months under the Biden administration, focusing on the coronavirus. He then returned to New York, where political observers saw signs he was gearing up for another bid, including an updated Facebook page that hadn’t been changed in months.
But this time around, Malliotakis isn’t the only hurdle Rose is facing. He will have to fight off an opponent running on his left: progressive activist Brittany Ramos DeBarros, another skilled fundraiser. DeBarros, also a veteran, has been endorsed by Brand New Congress, a liberal group that helped propel New York progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to victory.
DeBarros believes there is a desire for new leadership.
“I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors in this district and talked to thousands of people over the years and found that most of those people are not conservative, they feel hopeless or disillusioned,” she said in a statement. “I think shifting the landscape here is less about ideology and more about clear values and trust.”
In the past, Democrats on Staten Island have swung toward moderate politicians, like mayoral candidates Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia.
Malliotakis, who had more than $800,000 in cash on hand by the end of June, is not facing a primary challenger. Her controversial votes, including choosing not to certify the 2020 presidential election, could mean a second endorsement from Trump, who continues to hold a lot of sway in the district.
Despite their forthcoming primary skirmish, DeBarros says that she is united with Rose around the central goal of defeating Malliotakis next November.
“Max and I sat down to talk recently, and we agreed that with so much at stake for NY-11 families, removing Malliotakis should be our top priority,” DeBarros said.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.