Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis watched the television coverage of the new members being sworn into office in the 116th Congress with mixed emotions. While she was proud to see so many women elected to the House, she lamented the fact that so few of them are members of her party.
Malliotakis expressed her concerns on Twitter, posting a tweet in which she pointed out the dismal number of Republican women.
“A record # of women will be sworn into 116th Congress today but ONLY 21 out of 127 are Republican,” Malliotakis tweeted on Jan. 3, the first day the new Congress was in session. “Only 4 out of 42 newly elected women & 5 out of 55 new Republicans. A sad commentary on either my party’s ability to attract women or willingness to run qualified women or both.”
The numbers “are staggering,” Malliotakis told this newspaper.
Malliotakis, 38, was re-elected in November to her fifth term in the state Assembly representing the 64th Assembly District, which covers parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island. She raised her political profile in 2017 when she ran against Democrat Bill de Blasio for mayor. She lost that race, but her candidacy created a great deal of buzz in New York City politics.
She is full of ideas on how her party can increase its numbers among women.
For one thing, GOP leaders should be recruiting more women to run for office and fully support them when they do, according to Malliotakis.
“I’ve never played identity politics in my political career, whether it’s running for the Assembly, or when I ran for mayor. I’ve never said ‘Vote for me because I’m a woman.’ But when we have quality women running for office, we should be looking to support them,” she said.
The Republican Party could attract more women if it concentrated on honing its message, Malliotakis said. “We should be speaking to people about kitchen table issues like lowering taxes, creating jobs, improving the economy and education,” she said.
It’s important that the GOP to do better with women so that “there is a counter-balance to what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is saying,” she said, referring to the left-leaning new congressmember from Queens who is fast becoming a superstar in the Democratic Party.
Republicans need to fight against stereotypes that have been placed upon the GOP by Democrats, she said. “Democrats have used fear-mongering and it has proven to be a successful strategy for them. We should do a better job of explaining our positions on issues,” she said.
Malliotakis offered the immigration fight as an example.
“There is a big difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration. But the left has been successful in convincing people that Republicans are looking to round up legal immigrants and deport them out of the country,” she said.
The current number of GOP female office holders is depressing, but there is reason to hope, Malliotakis said.
Leaders like Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, can serve as role models, Malliotakis said.
“Nikki Haley is a clear rising star in our party who embodies the direction we need to take going forward. As a fellow minority woman from an immigrant family, I find her particularly relatable,” said Malliotakis, who is half-Greek and half-Hispanic.
There are also positive signs on the local level, she said, pointing to Queens and Manhattan as examples.
“Queens in particular benefits from the strong leadership of a female GOP Chair, Joann Ariola. Joann joins Manhattan GOP’s Andrea Catsimatidis in leading New York City’s Republicans and brings years of dedicated experience, political acumen and a female perspective to the table,” Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis had not held office before she ran for the assembly in 2010, defeating a two-term Democratic incumbent.
She recalled being a fifth grader and being inspired by Republican Susan Molinari, who served in Congress from 1990 to 1997 representing Staten Island and Southwest Brooklyn.
Molinari came to Malliotakis’ school to speak to students. “She was very impressive. I didn’t decide to go into go into politics right there and then. But she made a big impression on me,” Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis said her mother Vera inspired her decision to join the Republican Party. Vera Malliotakis had fled Cuba many years earlier and often talked to her daughter about the dangers of Communism and governmental overreach. The younger Malliotakis believed that the Republican Party did a good job of speaking out against Communism and promoting a can-do spirit.