Max Rose Is The First Post-9/11 Combat Vet To Seek Office In NYC — And He Might Win

From Serving His Country To Serving His Community

(Max Rose, candidate for New York’s 11th Congressional District)

In special elections around the US, Democrats have flipped seats that Republicans previously won by double-digit margins. From Alabama to Pennsylvania, the trend has remained consistent. All the actionable data makes one thing clear: the Democratic wave is real. Max Rose aims to bolster it in New York’s 11th Congressional District (NY-11).

Max Rose is the first post-9/11 combat veteran to seek office in New York City. The Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient also worked as the Chief of Staff of Brightpoint Health, which operates health clinics and substance abuse programs. Rose also worked for Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, and focused on rebuilding trust between the community and law enforcement. Even with a resume like Rose’s, there is a challenge ahead.

NY-11 is a tough district. In 2016, Republican incumbent Daniel Donovan won it by 25 points. Before Donovan assumed office, Republican Michael Grimm (who resigned after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion and subsequently serving time in prison) held the seat. Now that Grimm out of prison, the far-right candidate is challenging Donovan in the Republican primary. Believe it or not, polling indicates Grimm is the frontrunner.

Although Donovan’s margin of victory was large, he was facing a Democrat who had no significant backing. In 2012, Obama won this district by 5 points and in 2016, Donald Trump won it by just under 10 points. The Cook Partisan Voter Index has this district listed as an R+3.

Max Rose thinks he’s the best candidate to take on this challenge and close that gap in the general. Rose, who does not accept money from corporate PACs, has outraised his primary contenders and was named as one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” candidates.

The primary election is on June 26, 2018.

From gun reform to healthcare, we spoke to Max Rose about where he stands on the issues. Read our full interview with him below:

What inspired you to run for Congress?

I’m running for Congress because I’ve seen how broken our politics have become and I know we are capable of so much more. “In the army, men and women I served with did the impossible every day because that’s what our country asked them to do. I’m fed up with politicians who lack the commitment and courage to do the same.

After far too many soldiers were wounded or killed by IEDs in Afghanistan, Congress acted. In record time our Strykers were redesigned and I am alive today because of that. So, don’t tell me we can’t defeat the drug epidemic, rebuild our infrastructure, or get money out of politics. We’ve faced harder challenges before. We can do it again with new leadership in Congress.

You’re the first post-9/11 combat veteran to seek office in New York City. What specific skills do you think your experience in the military can bring to government?

The thing that stands out most in my mind when I think about my time as a combat platoon leader in Afghanistan, is that it didn’t matter whether the soldiers around me were Democrats or Republicans, gay or straight, dreamers or citizens. They just focused on their mission and did what their country asked of them, every single day. And it’s not just soldiers – teachers, nurses, firefighters, construction workers – so many people wake up every day and put it all on the line to keep this country moving. I think the House of Representatives should be filled with 435 people with that exact same attitude.

What do you think the nation’s top priority should be in the next five to ten years?

When you look at the challenges this country is facing, whether it’s the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, gun violence, or a crumbling infrastructure, they’re all incredibly important, to name just one legislative priority. But our biggest problem, is that none of these issues can be resolved if the people don’t have faith in the political process. Therefore, our top priority needs to be regaining the trust of the American people. That starts with reducing the role of big money in our politics and setting our government back on a path of responding to every day Americans, not donors and corporate lobbyists. That’s why I’m refusing to take a single cent from corporate PACs, not just in this campaign, but throughout my entire political career. It’s time to reform campaign finance laws, end Citizens United, and get government back on the side of the working class.

How do you plan to make healthcare more accessible to your constituents and what role do you think healthcare should play in tackling the opioid crisis?

Whether on Staten Island, in South Brooklyn, or anywhere else across the country we have to do go after the issues systematically to ensure not only that everyone is covered, but its done so in an affordable way. That’s why we need a public option in every county, so that no insurer has a monopoly. We need to enact all-payer rate setting nationwide, just as Maryland already did, so that the federal government can have the authority to negotiate the price of all medical services. And we need to invest more in primary and preventive care so that the healthcare industry can focus more on keeping us healthy, not treating us once we’re sick. With these basic steps, I think we can remove the industry’s perverse profit incentives, lower costs, and provide healthcare that is truly universal.

As for treating the opioid epidemic, we need a massive national commitment on par with what we saw in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the healthcare industry must play a central role in that commitment. We need more outpatient clinics, like the one I helped Brightpoint Health bring to Staten Island. But my time at Brightpoint also showed me that there’s only so much outpatient clinics can do. We need more funding for inpatient treatment centers and greater investment in primary care and mental health services to prevent the root causes of addiction. With these investments, and with a greater focus from law enforcement on punishing the drug companies that floor our streets with pills, we can finally put an end to this epidemic.

What do you think about the GOP’s tax law and how it affects New Yorkers?

This bill targeted New York for punishment. End of story. It was a massive giveaway to corporations with some things for the middle and working class sprinkled in. But ten years from now, those small benefits for the middle class will all but disappear, while the wealthiest 1% of New Yorkers will continue to rake in 42% of the tax cut. That’s absurd. We need to repeal the bill and put an end to the tax loopholes like the carried interest loophole that both parties have propped up for years. Then, we need to work in a bipartisan manner to finally build a tax code that allows the middle-class to share in the wealth it helped to create.

As a combat veteran, you’ve likely worked closely with high-powered assault weapons. Do you believe that assault weapons should be available for purchase by civilians and what steps should the federal government take to reduce gun violence?

You’re exactly right, I carried an assault rifle every day in Afghanistan. I know that weapon intimately, and I can tell you that it is designed to do one thing, and one thing only: kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. It’s a weapon of war, and it absolutely does not belong on our streets. Period. But banning assault weapons is just one of many steps the federal government should take to reduce gun violence. We also need to update our background check laws so that all gun sales, including those occurring online or at gun shows, are subject to a background check. We have to go after illegal gun traffickers, close the Boyfriend Loophole that allows convicted domestic abusers to own a gun, and empower law enforcement to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts. This shouldn’t be controversial, it’s common sense, and it’s time we stood up to the NRA and actually got it done. The NRA is not going to give me an F rating, they’re going to give me an “F-you” rating.

Conor Lamb’s PA special election was a prime example of how important it is to field candidates that fit the District. NY-11 is a tough one, with Republican incumbent Daniel Donovan having won it by 25 points. What did your campaign learn from the Lamb race when it comes to finding a way to close the gap ahead of you?

I come back to trust. Conor did a phenomenal job showing folks – who were rightfully pissed off at government ignoring and screwing them over – that he wouldn’t leave them behind. Authenticity matters. Trust matters. That’s what we do every day here on Staten Island and South Brooklyn and it’s why I think we’ll win.

Speaking of Donovan, his primary opponent Michael Grimm once represented NY-11 before pleading guilty to felony tax fraud. What do you think of the current state of the GOP?

I think it says more about how bad of an elected official Dan Donovan has been that Michael Grimm is the frontrunner now in their race. Let’s be honest here though: take aside Grimm’s eight-month stint in prison and they’re two sides of the same coin. They’ve taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from Corporate PACs over the course of their careers and they haven’t done a damn thing to solve our problems. Our commute? Still sucks. Opioid and heroin epidemic? Still killing people in my neighborhood. People are sick of it and that’s why I think you’re seeing folks across the country stand up and say, “Enough.”

How do you plan to appeal to both Staten Island and Brooklyn voters?

On Staten Island and in South Brooklyn we get the short end of the stick every time. The Mayor, who’s a Democrat, is the only elected official in the city not in favor of building a recreational facility that was promised to Staten Island’s North Shore almost a decade ago. It doesn’t even make sense. On the Brooklyn side, you don’t know how much hell of a commute you can have until you ride the R-Train five days a week to and from work. We need elected officials who will call politicians and the system out on their bullshit. If you do that and show a better way forward – you’re going to win.

Why should voters in NY-11 vote for you over your primary opponents?

Because I’ve put in the work building the united front that we’re going to need to take this seat in November. I’ve personally knocked on thousands of doors, met with hundreds of community leaders, and I’m proud of the endorsements we’ve received, from the Working Families Party, to VoteVets, to the Congressional Black Caucus and the New York State Council of Machinists, and everything in between. All across country, people are starting to realize that our campaign has the energy, the enthusiasm, and the grassroots support that we need to take on our Republican opponent, whoever that may be. It may be my name on the ballot, but these are the people that are really going to lead us over the finish line in November, and I’m honored to have them behind me.

Interview // Congress / Democratic Party / Elections / Interview / Midterms