Nicole Malliotakis says she’s running as a pragmatic moderate against incumbent Bill de Blasio
Nicole Malliotakis knows all about being part of the minority.
“I’m a woman, Hispanic and a Republican in New York City,” the New York state assemblywoman tells Moneyish. “I’m someone the GOP hasn’t offered before.” Now, Malliotakis will get a chance to test that hypothesis against incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio. After her last rival dropped out last month, the 37-year-old is now the presumptive Republican nominee for New York mayor.
If Malliotakis is to eventually end up in Gracie Mansion, she faces significant challenges. She has little name recognition in a city where registered Republicans are outnumbered by nearly nine-to-one. She sees an opportunity though in presenting herself as a moderate problem solver against a jet-setting ideologue at a time when the city’s public transport system is in a state of crisis. “He’s fighting an ideological war because he wants to be President one day,” she says of de Blasio. “My concern is taking care of my city.”
The mayor’s campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The child of a Greek immigrant dad and a Cuban refugee mom who eventually owned their own restaurant, Malliotakis says she’d had an interest in politics since her youth. She grew up on Staten Island and went to school at Seton Hall before getting her MBA at Wagner College. Malliotakis, who still lives on Staten Island, also worked for local GOP pols like Gov. George Pataki, her mentor and the last Republican elected to statewide office, and then in the private sector doing environmental public affairs work.
She then ran successfully for the state assembly in 2010 when she found out public transport fares were being raised as the express bus she used for her daily commute was being canceled. “I was a disgruntled constituent and thought we could do better,” says Malliotakis, whose district encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. That’s an approach she promises to bring if she gets elected: though the authority behind the subway system is primarily controlled by the governor, the mayor has four appointees to the board and Malliotakis thinks they should be more vocal in calling for investigations into the subway’s breakdown. Additionally, she thinks the mayor should ramp up capital spending on infrastructure instead of using funds on expenses like hiring consultants.
She also says she’ll be willing to talk to everyone and avoid grandstanding. “I’m respected because I stand for principles but am willing to negotiate,” she says of her time in the state capitol. “When you have a mayor who can’t get along with with not only the president, but the governor from his own party, people suffer as a result.”
Malliotakis speaks proudly of being the child of immigrants– she supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “My parents met in New York where they came without friends or family. Then one generation later, their daughter is running for mayor of this city. It just shows how unique New York is,” she says. But she became well-known in part for unsuccessfully suing de Blasio’s administration in a bid to prevent them from destroying records used to verify applications for a municipal ID that’s popular with the undocumented. Advocates for the move feared that Trump’s administration would use the details to target illegal immigrants, but Malliotakis cast it as a “bad decision in a post 9/11 world. It’s bad for public safety.”
But she’s already getting some flak for voting last year for Donald Trump, a New Yorker who has inveighed loudly against immigration and whose administration is cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities” like New York. While Trump remains wildly unpopular in New York– where Hillary Clinton won almost 80% of the vote last year– Malliotakis is hoping that voters will appreciate the subtleties and support a crackdown on illegal immigrants who’ve committed felonies. “It’s inappropriate not to comply with federal detention requests for individuals who’ve committed crimes like grand larceny or patronizing a child prostitute,” she says. “It’s about about differentiating between two groups. Those here [without papers] who want to contribute and those causing trouble and preying on other immigrants.”
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