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Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., is considering a quick return to politics after losing his House seat this month. Rose has begun laying the groundwork for a potential mayoral campaign in New York City, according to three different sources.
A Democratic fundraiser said Rose has started making calls soliciting donors to back a potential mayoral bid. Two other sources familiar with the situation confirmed Rose has been having initial conversations to drum up support.
“He’s talked to people about it,” one high-profile New York City political operative said.
All three sources requested anonymity to discuss Rose’s private maneuvering. Rose did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The congressman, who was elected as part of the “blue wave” that swept Congress in 2018, has earned a reputation as one of the more moderate Democrats in the House. Rose’s district, which includes Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn, is a uniquely red stretch of solidly blue New York City.
Apart from a two-year period, the area was represented by Republicans from 1993 until Rose’s election. Staten Island is also the only one of New York City’s five boroughs that voted Republican in the past two presidential races. After Rose’s defeat, the district will once again be represented by a Republican, Rep.-elect Nicole Malliotakis.
Rose’s status as a relative moderate makes him an interesting potential entry in a crowded field of mayoral candidates vying to replace term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio in next year’s election. As of now, there are more than 10 candidates in the race, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, frequent MSNBC contributor Maya Wiley and ex-Citigroup executive Raymond McGuire, who is being backed by Valerie Jarrett, one of Barack Obama’s top aides.
Rose also has a compelling personal story. The 33-year-old is an Afghanistan veteran who was wounded in combat and has received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He continues to serve in the National Guard.
Rose has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a lengthy résumé that includes stints working for a nonprofit health care organization and with the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who earned a reputation as a progressive criminal justice reformer during his more than two years in office before his untimely death from cancer in 2016.
During his time in Congress, Rose has been a vocal critic of de Blasio, a progressive who has become a divisive figure in the city amid criticisms of his handling of rising violent crime rates and the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in support of a possible mayoral campaign, Rose has weighed in on mayoral issues publicly in recent days.
On Nov. 3, as the returns were coming in and the numbers were beginning to look bad for Rose, he delivered what the local political newspaper City and State described as an “unusual” election night speech that did not focus on the results. In that address, he defended his decision to march with Black Lives Matter activists during the nationwide protests this summer.
“If we are going to unite this country, then we must listen when a community is hurting,” Rose said in that speech. “Black parents worry a chance encounter could end with their baby boy or girl never coming home. And, yes, the wife or husband of a police officer feels their heart leave their chest every time a tour starts, scared the love of their life may never walk back through the door.”
While Rose’s support for Black Lives Matter has been widely cited as a key factor in his defeat, his decision to back the movement would likely play differently in a citywide race. Indeed, his election night speech drew praise from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the most prominent progressives in the country, who posted a tweet urging her more than 10 million followers to watch a video of his remarks.
“Max Rose has been a great colleague & friend, despite all our differences,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “He was relentlessly attacked for attending a community event after the murder of George Floyd. Max used his election night speech to bravely declare why it was the right thing to do. Watch it.”
Rose ultimately conceded on Nov. 12. Two days later, he fired off a tweet at de Blasio, suggesting that the current mayor’s handling of school openings and closures during the pandemic was “a failure of leadership and imagination.”
Criticism of de Blasio was a key part of Rose’s House campaign, including a memorable ad in which the congressman simply stated, “Bill de Blasio is the worst mayor in the history of New York City.” Rose’s prior television ads could be a crucial asset in the crowded mayoral race.
New Yorkers will elect a new mayor next November. The Democratic primary is set to take place in June, and with the coronavirus pandemic seemingly set to disrupt normal life for several more months, candidates may have a difficult time holding traditional events to introduce themselves to voters.
Rose’s race against Malliotakis attracted an influx of millions of dollars of national cash that helped him fund television ads that aired citywide. Multiple sources suggested those TV spots likely helped make him a known quantity in the city.
“Max would be interesting,” one local Democratic strategist said. “After running that many ads, his name ID must be nuts.”
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