Freshman Democrat Rep. Max Rose must steel himself for a tough re-election scrum in his Republican-leaning district. An unconventional, Trumpian contender, Joseph ‘Joey Salads’ Saladino, could make for quite an upset to both parties.
New York’s 11th district covers Staten Island and a sliver of Brooklyn. Staten Island, New York City’s last GOP bastion, went for Trump over Hillary by 15 points in 2016. The district gave Rose’s Republican predecessor, Dan Donovan, a 26.1-point margin of victory in 2016 before Rose bested him by six points — just over 10,000 votes — in 2018.
Seeing an opportunity to reclaim one of the three US congressional seats they lost in 2018, New York’s Republicans are mobilizing to oppose Rose.
Right now, Nicole Malliotakis is the leading contender for the Republican nomination.
Only 38 years old and a member of the New York State Assembly since 2011, Malliotakis was the Republican nominee to oppose Bill de Blasio in the 2017 New York City mayoral election. In that race, she lost 27.8 percent to de Blasio’s 66.5 percent but carried Staten Island, her home, with over 70 percent of the vote.
Malliotakis officially declared against Rose in February 2019. Her campaign literature neglects President Trump and touts her ‘no nonsense’ attitude. As of the last filing period, she’d raised $550,579.45, a modest but not insignificant sum compared to Rose’s $1,404,679.99. Far behind her in fundraising is her only Republican primary challenger, Saladino.
Known for his controversial ‘social experiment’ and prank YouTube videos as ‘Joey Salads’, Saladino walks a path similar to that of Donald Trump in 2015. He’s launching a political career using his established social media presence. Having declared in May 2019, he only raised $32,529.18 by the filing deadline at the end of June.
At 25 years old and already mired in scandals about some of his poorer-taste content, Saladino should be easy to dismiss. But not in President Trump’s America. His vulgar antics in recent, widely viewable online videos are like a vaccine shot for political ambitions. They might hurt him now, but could they be to his benefit in the long run?
Having long ago eschewed any sense of shame or veneer of ‘politeness’, Saladino threw away all political impedimenta. A small-caliber variant of the magnum that is Trump, Saladino might still blow away his contenders in the primary and the general.
With his crassness, boldness, and unabashed ‘old-school’ masculinity, Saladino stands out even among Republican ‘outsiders’.
If successful, he could even join the ranks of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani as a hero of the New York Post populists. These white working and middle class Staten and Long Islanders laugh at that newspaper’s outrageous headlines while waiting in deli lines. They remember exactly how bad New York was before Giuliani cleaned it up and exactly where they were on September 11, 2001.
Tough-talk and patriotism inspire these ignored New Yorkers, and Saladino offers them both. His website says that he is ‘sick of the anti-American, anti-working-class agenda the Democrat party is pursuing.’
While Malliotakis is ‘no nonsense’, Saladino is ‘no bullshit’. That alone gives him a solid basis for gathering Staten Islanders fed up with their insufficient, careerist legislators. But he has to capitalize on this strategic advantage. With enough rip-roaring barnstorming among the New York Post populists, Saladino can campaign to build relationships with communities that don’t know him as a leader, if at all.
Malliotakis will likely win the nomination in June 2020, and she would probably win the seat in the general. Though, as she hesitates to support President Trump — the former reality TV star and developer from Queens — Saladino rallies behind him. And in a district that chose Trump over Clinton, and over Cruz and Kasich in the primary, Joey Salads stands a fighting chance.