STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — To hear Max Rose tell it, it’s Staten Island’s reputation of being known as a law enforcement-friendly borough that prompted him to make the move across the bridge from Bay Ridge.
Since his move to St. George nearly three years ago, the borough has already served as the backdrop to some major life events.
In March, just a two-minute walk from their apartment, he married his fiancee Leigh Byrne, a fashion stylist, at Flagship Brewery in Tompkinsville.
And two months before that he kicked off his first political campaign in Port Richmond.
“What I think separates Staten Island from any other community that I’ve seen in New York City, is that it welcomes vets and members of the law enforcement community with such open arms,” Rose told the Advance. “My transition was not the easiest. It isn’t easy for anyone. You don’t feel as if necessarily that your experiences are understood and related to. You’ve obviously experienced stuff that takes some time to get over and there’s no better place to be a vet than this community.”
Taking the stage at the historic Reformed Church in late January, Rose, a 31-year-old U.S. Army combat veteran, told the crowd that he quit his job to challenge Rep. Dan Donovan because the former prosecutor as well as Democrats and Republicans in Washington have failed them.
“Democrats need to go back to being Democrats again. We need to be proud of what we stand for. We need to think big again. And we need to do the right thing no matter what the political consequences,” said Rose. “And most importantly we need to regain voters’ trusts, because we’ve lost it.”
HIS SERVICE IN THE MILITARY
Rose — who last worked as chief of staff of a health care non-profit with 800 employees and a presence in every borough — often tells voters that he learned that government can put partisanship aside and solve important issues. He learned that In April 2013, when the then-26-year-old Army first lieutenant was knocked unconscious after his platoon’s Stryker combat vehicle drove over a roadside bomb in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan.
Rose woke up bleeding profusely from his head and had a gash on his right knee; he was hospitalized for 10 days. He later earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
“A two-star general comes up to me and he says: ‘Son, five years ago you’d be dead,”’ Rose, who’s an infantry commander in the National Guard, recalled.
That’s because Congress, as Rose said, “got their act together” and supplied Strykers with armor designed to withstand explosive attacks. Rose says he wants to do the same if elected to represent New York’s 11th congressional district.
CAMPAIGN STRATEGY AND POLICY POSITIONS
Donovan, a Republican lawmaker in a Trump-friendly borough, has already handedly beat back two Democratic challengers.
But in a mid-term election year that appears set to be a referendum on President Trump, Rose, who rarely wears a tie, doesn’t come off as the usual NY-11 Democratic challenger.
Since he kicked off his campaign, he has rejected some of the more liberal policy ideas that have emerged, even while he was embroiled in a six-way Democratic primary and several of his opponents were touting “Medicare for all” promises.
If you ask him why, he’ll tell you in great detail.
He believes the only way to tackle the opioid epidemic is through a 21st-century version of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which improved care for low-income, uninsured and underinsured people with AIDS as well as provide drug assistance for nearly a third of HIV-infected patients.
He also supports passing a federal infrastructure bill to finish expanding the Staten Island Expressway, build a light rail, and expand ferry service.
In hopes of controlling rising premiums and deductibles, the former health care executive also wants to create a public health care option so no county has only one insurer and give the government the authority to negotiate the price of all medical services.
His Army-green lawn signs and campaign literature signal that Rose’s campaign is emphasizing his status as a veteran, but he comes across as policy-focused and relishes delving into the weeds of why he does or doesn’t support certain positions.
His educational background and work in government already spells this out to voters.
Rose went to Poly Prep Country Day School in Bay Ridge before studying history at Wesleyan University.
In college, he interned for U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) when Booker was the mayor of Newark and even continued to work remotely in his last year of undergraduate.
Rose continued his studies at the London School of Economics where he received a master’s in philosophy and public policy.
After his 10-month deployment to Afghanistan he went on to work for Brooklyn’s first black district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, as a special assistant.
Rose — the son of a City University of New York professor — brushes past these parts of his resume and instead credits his mother, a welfare policy and social work expert, for his personal values.
“She always held me to a high standard. ‘You want to sit down, you want to talk, Maxie? Let’s talk about the issues,’” said Rose, mimicking one of his mother’s refrains. “Because there was this sense that you have to serve. And if you’re going to serve, then you got to do it right. And if you want to do it right, then you’ve got to be educated about the issues.”
WHERE THE RACE STANDS
A New York Times/Siena College poll shows Rose within the 4.7 percent margin of error, with Donovan leading 44-40 and 15 percent of voters surveyed saying they were undecided. The political newcomer, who has proven himself to be a prolific fundraiser, has a little over $1 million in his campaign coffers, while Donovan has a little over $250,000.
The two candidates have released a torrent of ads in recent weeks. Rose’s campaign has put out ads in recent weeks for taking campaign contributions from Purdue Pharma executives (Donovan has since pledged to donate the contributions to Island drug treatment centers). Donovan has sought to tie Rose to some of the more liberal campaign issues that have emerged in the midterms and has a televised ad buy calling Rose “not one of us.”
Democrats hoping to flip the seat added Rose to the national “Red-to-Blue” program, which provides resources and support for candidates, but major political forecasters all mark the race as “Lean Republican” or “Likely Republican.”
The general election is on Nov. 6.