Mayor Bill de Blasio is emerging as a controversial campaign issue in the 11th hour of the fiercely contested race between first-term Democratic Rep. Max Rose and rival Republican state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
In weekend text messages and handouts to voters, the Malliotakis campaign and the New York State Republican Party told voters that de Blasio “endorsed” Rose.
De Blasio has not endorsed Rose.
But the liberal mayor did say he generally “supports” Democrats when asked about the Rose-Malliotakis race in the 11th congressional district on NY1 last month.
Asked if he had made an endorsement in the race, de Blasio said, “I have not. You know, I support Democrats though.”
Malliotakis and her allies have pounced on de Blasio’s statement to claim he backs Rose’s re-election.
De Blasio is unpopular in the 11th CD that encompasses Staten Island and portions of southern Brooklyn. Malliotakis, who was the GOP candidate for mayor in 2017, captured 70 percent of the vote on the island even though de Blasio easily won re-election citywide.
Rose on Sunday rejected a de Blasio endorsement as political poison.
Rose actually produced a web ad calling de Blasio the worst mayor ever, and accused Malliotakis and the GOP of a smear by trying to tie him to Hizzoner.
“It’s a series of distractions. If the Mayor even tried to endorse me, I’d put the endorsement in the middle of the street, I’d get in a truck, and I’d drive over the endorsement,” Rose said in a NY1 interview, which he tweeted.
“And then I’d get in reverse and drive over it again to make sure that endorsement did not survive.”
The Malliotakis campaign text message claimed de Blasio “endorsed” Rose because the congressman “joined” the mayor to “defund” the police and end cash bail for many criminal defendants — both of which are not true. The campaign hand-out said “liberal” Rose “was endorsed” by de Blasio and urged constituents to vote “no” on Rose and de Blasio’s agenda.
Malliotakis campaign spokesman Rob Ryan defended the tactic of lumping Rose with de Blasio.
Rose opposes defunding the police. But Ryan noted the congressman participated in a Black Lives Matter/anti-police brutality protest on Staten Island –following outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — where some marchers held up signs calling for cutting funding to the NYPD.
“Max Rose and Bill de Blasio are liberal Democrats joined at the hip,” Ryan said.
“I know one thing for sure — Bill de Blasio is not endorsing Nicole Malliotakis.”
Said Rose campaign spokesman Jonas Edwards-Jenks, “The desperate Malliotakis campaign is closing the race with lies.”
Both campaigns and their Super PAC allies have bludgeoned each other with millions of dollars in attack ads. Rose has called Malliotakis a “fraud” and the assemblywoman has referred to the congressman as a “radical liberal” clone of de Blasio.
A recent NBC 4 New York/Marist College poll found that the race is a virtual dead heat.