BY JAIME DEJESUS, JOHN ALEXANDER & HELEN KLEIN
Those were the first words shouted by Democrat Max Rose addressing supporters after learning that he had defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Donovan in the 11th Congressional District race.
A huge group of supporters screamed for joy as they gathered at the Vanderbilt at South Beach, 300 Father Capodanno Blvd. in Staten Island on Tue., Nov. 6 as Rose, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, won the seat of the district that includes all of Staten Island and a swath of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Gravesend.
The congressional seat has been held by a Republican since the early 1980s, except for a two-year span in 2008-2010, when it was occupied by former City Councilmember Michael McMahon. Two years later, McMahon lost the seat to Grimm, who was succeeded Donovan. Grimm resigned in 2015 after pleading guilty to tax fraud.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results had Rose with 52.6 percent of the vote (93,762) and Donovan with 47.1 percent (83,925). The Green Party candidate, Henry Bardel, had .4 percent of the vote (677).
At around 9 p.m., the lights in the venue dimmed as Rose’s chances seemed remote. Donovan took a five percent lead with just 31 percent of the ballots counted. However, at 9:25 p.m., with 48 percent of precincts reporting, Rose took a slim 0.6 percent lead. The crowd screamed in jubilation as their candidate rarely relinquished the lead throughout the rest of the night.
“462 days ago, we launched this campaign to do things differently,” he told supporters after thanking his challenger, family, friends and team. “We weren’t just trying to win votes in Staten Island and South Brooklyn. We were trying to earn people’s trust. We wanted to show the country that you don’t need special interest or you don’t need lobbyists. You just need the people. In fact, they can keep their damn money.”
In a district with more registered Democrats than Republicans that yet went for Trump in 2016, Rose combined a compelling message with a lot of good, old-fashioned hard work to eke out a victory, ousting the Republican — who won the seat in a special election in May, 2015.
“The pundits laughed at us when we said, ‘they all got to go.’ They laughed at us, but they didn’t get the point,” Rose said. “The point is that we were never in this to win an election. We were in this to change politics irrevocably. The story of this country has always been that, no matter our differences, no matter the challenges in our way, we do what others said was impossible. They said this was impossible. But it’s country that matters. That’s what built this nation. That’s why everyone — including cops and firemen and teachers and vets and nurses — all wake up and get the job done. What do you say we bring that to Washington D.C.?”
When speaking to the press, Rose discussed how he believes he pulled off his victory.
“The key (to this victory) was earning people’s trust,” he said. “You can’t do this with a shiny commercial or with money in the last 72 hours of a campaign. You go door to door, community to community. That’s how we won, and more importantly, that’s how we are going to effectively govern.”
Towards the end of his speech, he discussed the work that has to be done.
“Tonight, we party but tomorrow, we get to work. The politicians who said that seat is not winnable, said, ‘That’s cute what you’re doing knocking on doors,’ but those folks cannot ignore us anymore because we are going to D.C. together,” he said. “We are going to make sure that our loved ones in the throes of addiction get the treatment that they need, hell or high water. We are going to build an America where no child is ever afraid of gun violence in their school. We are going to build an America where no one ever gets murdered because of the god they pray to.”
For Donovan, the evening started out on an up-note with a stop at the Bay Ridge Manor to greet Brooklyn supporters at 8:15 p.m. He then headed to Prive, a restaurant and catering hall on Annadale Road in Staten Island. He addressed the crowd following his disappointing defeat, conceding just after 10 p.m.
“I just got off the phone with Max Rose and I asked him to do a good job for my family and yours. And he promised me that he would,” he said. So I congratulated him on a hard-fought victory. But it has been an amazing ride. For the last 22 years, my entire adult life, it’s been an honor and a privilege and something I will never forget. And I will never forget you for giving me this opportunity. I look at this as the end of something I’ve enjoyed very much.”
The incumbent said that he and his family would take a trip to Florida where he will decide what the next chapter of his life will be. He also stated that his partner Serena and his daughter Aniella Rose had made sacrifices and told his supporters that he wanted to thank them from the bottom his heart.
“Sincerely, thank you,” he said. “You have given me the opportunity of a lifetime and I will treasure it always.”