Nicole Malliotakis has The Squad in her sights as new face of GOP11/15/2020
Squad goals: Fight socialism, reboot the Republican image, dunk on AOC.
Congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis, soon to be the New York City delegation’s lone Republican member, is taking direct aim at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with an “anti-socialist squad” of fellow freshmen whose families, like hers, fled communist regimes.
“We need to form our own ‘squad.’ We have a group of new Republicans who love America. We value freedom, liberty and opportunity,” Malliotakis, 40, told The Post.
“We need someone who is going to be a counterbalance to AOC,” she said.
Malliotakis, a state Assemblywoman from Staten Island who lost a mayoral bid against Mayor de Blasio in 2017, beat first-term Democratic Rep. Max Rose last week in the 11th Congressional District that encompasses her right-leaning home borough and a swath of southern Brooklyn. Rose conceded the race Thursday.
Malliotakis said the Democratic Party’s leftist agenda in the House has gone largely unchecked — until now, after a spate of surprise GOP wins on Nov. 3 cut into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s majority.
“In many ways it’s the very reason we entered our races for Congress,” she said of Florida’s Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar and Indiana’s Victoria Spartz, the other incoming House Republicans in her budding anti-socialist alliance.
Countering AOC’s leftist leanings is personal for Malliotakis, whose mother fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1959.
“We all have stories we want to share with the American people,” Malliotakis said of her new crew. Gimenez, born in Cuba, and Spartz, from Ukraine, both grew up under communist regimes. Salazar, like Malliotakis, is the daughter of a Cuban refugee.
All four are in Washington, DC, for several days of orientation sessions for the House of Representatives’ incoming freshmen — and embody the GOP’s in-progress outreach efforts to Latinos and women.
“It’s a natural alliance that has formed. We share very similar backgrounds and have the same concerns,” Malliotakis said.
“We don’t have a name; we’re not in high school,” she said — although, she admitted, “freedom squad” has a nice ring to it.
“But we have a shared concern that socialism is encroaching, little by little, into our society, and our freedoms and liberties are threatened,” she said. “Our families fled from oppressive countries with the very same policies that AOC and the Squad are promoting.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s “Squad” of lefty Democrats, first elected in 2018, includes Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All of them won second terms in their deep-blue districts — while at least seven of their more moderate Democratic colleagues went down to defeat.
With seven more races still too close to call — and Republicans leading in most of them — the Democrats could end up with a majority as slim as five seats when the 117th Congress begins in January.
“We will have a governing minority,” Malliotakis said. “The Democrats will need to work with us if they want to accomplish anything.”
That could give Malliotakis a big megaphone as the national media seeks a conservative counterweight to the lefty AOC — who told CNN this week of her plans to wade into Georgia’s campaigns for its January Senate runoff elections “so that we don’t have to negotiate” with Republicans.
“Look at what she’s saying about ‘not having to negotiate,’” Malliotakis scoffed. “She wants to jam through this socialist agenda.”
Malliotakis’ campaign successfully tied Rose to Squad-backed issues like defunding the police and bail reform that are deeply unpopular in her middle-class district. She holds a 15-point lead over her opponent as mail-in ballots continue to be tallied.
Her victory reflects the GOP’s growing sway among Hispanic voters — who supported President Trump in higher-than-expected numbers in states like Texas, Arizona and Florida — as well as its emphasis on recruiting female candidates this year. At least 35 Republican women, a new record, are set to serve in the House.
“The Republican Party has had this reputation of being the party of white men, but obviously this is not the case,” Malltiotakis said. “There’s a lot of new blood, and it’s very refreshing.”
It also could pay big dividends down the road, she believes.
“We now have much-needed messengers that we didn’t have before,” she said. “These are people who can go into minority communities, people who can speak to suburban moms, and talk about the importance of protecting freedom and opportunity and preserving capitalism and the American dream.”
She credited House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spearheaded the party’s diversity efforts, and upstate Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who took the female candidates under her wing.
“Not just recruiting but all along the way, by supporting us financially through her PAC, giving advice, mentoring us, and just checking in to ask how the campaign was going,” Malliotakis said. “Elise Stefanik is the reason why you see at least 13 new Republican women coming into the House.”
“We were always there as Republicans,” she said. “But now we’ve got the opportunity to have seat at the table.”
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