If you witnessed the completely off-the-rails Trump-Biden presidential debate a couple of weeks ago and found yourself wishing moderator Chris Wallace had a mute button at his disposal, then Wednesday night’s debate between Democratic Congressman Max Rose and Republican State Senator Nicole Malliotakis was for you.

The muting took place about halfway through the contentious virtual debate, which aired on Spectrum NY 1, when moderator Errol Louis decided the interruptions had gotten out of hand. Rose, who is fighting to hold on to his seat representing Staten Island and part of south Brooklyn, was making a delicate point about being opposed to cutting funding for the NYPD despite having also marched with Black Lives Matter demonstrators in June. Malliotakis has consistently tried to argue that Rose supports defunding the police.

“I was opposed to defunding, right from the get-go, but—” Rose was saying, when Malliotakis jumped in.

“Well, you didn’t say anything about it. And you went into a rally with a clear message,” she said, as Rose struggled to get a word in. “You never condemned the chanting.”

“Nicole Malliotakis, you’re going to have to let him respond,” Louis interjected. “We don’t want to have to start cutting mics and all that stuff.”

Despite the warning, Malliotakis resumed her interruptions almost immediately, at which point Louis gestured to an off-camera colleague to cut her off.

Rose needed the air time. As the Democratic incumbent in a district that voted for Trump in 2016, he has been on the defensive. According to Roll Call, he is the third most vulnerable member of the House.

“Rose moves up the list as Republicans have grown increasingly bullish about defeating him,” reads the Roll Call assessment. “In a Staten Island district that’s home to many police officers and firefighters, the GOP has been tying the freshman to calls to defund law enforcement, something he opposes.”

During the debate, Malliotakis repeatedly played up her law-and-order credentials, including endorsements from police unions. She also said she’d been actively delivering PPE to constituents during the pandemic, though she opposes efforts to impose a national mask requirement.

“We can't just mandate people to do certain things,” she said, adding that she favored personal responsibility.

Rose walked a fine line, arguing that he had praised Trump at times but was solidly independent. He rejected Malliotakis’s attempts to tie him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or democratic socialist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

According to GovTrack, Rose is among the most conservative Democrats in the House, ranking #22 out of 226 House Democrats.

One area where he clearly holds strong feelings is the climate crisis and its impact on Staten Island, parts of which were devastated by Superstorm Sandy eight years ago.

“This president leaving the Paris Accords was the most significant national security mistake since the invasion of Iraq,” Rose said. “We need to get back into it and be a leader once again in terms of building alliances to reduce global CO2 emissions.”

When asked, Malliotakis argued that the U.S. shouldn’t rejoin the accord until other countries, such as China, reduce their own carbon emissions.

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