Freshman Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., is one of several new members of Congress who have formed the “Freedom Force.” The group of conservative Republican leaders says it will stand against the far-left agenda being promoted by the so-called squad led by fellow New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other liberal Democrats.
Malliotakis is the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants and says she decided to run for Congress when she saw the damage progressive policies were having on her state and across America. She joins the podcast to explain her policy priorities and how she plans to stand up against the left’s agenda.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about an Anglican priest who started a small bike repair charity in his backyard after his own bicycle was stolen.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
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Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to welcome Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York to the show. Welcome, we are so pleased to have you here with us.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis: It’s great to be with you. I appreciate your interest, and I want to wish everyone a happy New Year.
Allen: Well, Rep. Malliotakis, we want to begin by just talking a little bit about your background and your story.
You are the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants. So could you just explain a little bit about how your background and your family history really impacted your political views?
Malliotakis: Sure. Well, both my parents are immigrants. They came to New York City. They didn’t have any money, they didn’t have any friends. They came alone and they didn’t even speak the language at that time, but they came with a dedication to work very hard and to pursue the American dream.
My mom is a Cuban refugee, and she left to escape the Castro regime of Cuba in 1959. My father came in the ’60s and they met here in New York and, in many ways, is your basic quintessential New York story because New York is, as you know, a city that has attracted people from all over the world since the beginning.
And what I will say is that they certainly instilled in me a patriotism, a love for this country, an appreciation of this country, and a dedication to preserve the American dream for future generations.
My mom was always very passionate about the ability to elect your leaders and so she got me involved at a very young age.
I was in high school when I first got involved in a campaign for Congress at the time, it was New York City Councilman Vito Fossella, who ran for Congress and won in a special election. And here I am 23, 24 years later in that very seat. So that was sort of what had initiated my involvement in politics.
And my father comes from Greece, which is the birthplace of democracy. And so he, in his own right, also very passionate about our ability to elect our leaders. And so certainly they’ve influenced me and the values that I hold.
Allen: And you have been very involved in policy and politics in your own state for a number of years. You ran for mayor of New York City in 2017. You were the Republican nominee. Explain a little bit, though, about why you said, “OK, now is the time when I need to run for Congress.”
Malliotakis: Sure. Well, I’ve been in the New York state Legislature. I ran in 2010. I defeated a two-term incumbent, Democratic incumbent, then.
I ran simply because, as a tax-paying citizen, who’s commuting to work every day, I was very upset with the fact that buses were being eliminated and fares were going up and tolls were going up and taxes were going up and we weren’t getting the services that we deserve.
So I decided to run against the local assembly member and we were able to win that campaign.
For me, running for office, it’s always been about ensuring that we have proper representation. And if you noticed, and you look at my races, you’ll see that I’ve always run against an incumbent. I’ve never run into an open seat. I ran against a two-term incumbent for the state assembly. We won that race.
In 2017, I took on [New York City] Mayor Bill de Blasio because I felt the direction he was taking our city was the wrong one. And quite frankly, I was right.
I mean, you look at the rising crime, the rise in taxes, the ridiculous spending that has left no rainy day fund to deal with the current crisis that we face and the quality of life that is deteriorated under Mayor de Blasio—certainly we could have used a change in direction in 2017.
And although I wasn’t successful in that election, I did win this congressional district with 67% of the vote. And so I decided to return to the assembly. And after this current term, I decided not to seek a reelection and instead run for Congress against another incumbent who I felt wasn’t representing our community well, and that was Congressman Max Rose.
So, two out of three ain’t bad. But here I am and I’m ready to get to work. I think we are facing so many issues right now, not only as a community and a city, and a state, but as a nation. And this is a pivotal moment, pivotal moment in the direction of our country.
I believe that we need individuals who are willing to stand up and fight to preserve our freedoms, our liberties, to preserve the American dream for future generations. Get government back to the basics of what they’re actually supposed to be doing, keeping the public safe, securing our borders, making sure that our children are getting a good education.
These are the things I think people expect from their government. And yet government has somehow gone in all sorts of areas where they don’t belong.
My immediate priorities: making sure that we overcome this pandemic, we reopen our economy. I’ve been pushing for that very strongly locally in New York.
A lot of the arbitrary restrictions we’re seeing coming from our mayor and governor are hurtful, have been very hurtful to the economy and those I represent. And making sure that we get this country back on track economically and restore the American jobs we’ve lost over the last several months.
Allen: I think so many Americans, that’s exactly what is on their mind. They’re realizing this is such a critical moment in history. We’re still dealing with the pandemic, like you say.
There’s all of these issues arising and for conservatives, especially, I think there’s some deep concern that now we’re seeing that Congress is fully controlled by the left. We have a Democratic president in office. So they’re wondering, “OK, what comes next?” We saw on [President Joe] Biden’s first day he signed a number of executive orders to unravel former President Donald Trump’s legacy.
What would you want to say to the American people as far as, “All right, this is the projection for at least the next two years, this is honestly what we’re looking at. But also, as a conservative, this is how I’m going to be standing up and pushing back against that left agenda”?
Malliotakis: Well, they are rightfully concerned with what’s going to happen under one-party Democratic rule. And as somebody who represents New York, I could tell you, when the state Senate flipped from Republican to Democrat and New York became under one-party rule, and beginning in 2019, we saw what a mess it became.
Radical policies, whether it be late-term abortion to the ninth month, whether it be radical changes to our bail system that released criminals back onto our streets, whether it be in laws that gave free college to illegal immigrants, laws that protected those who are here illegally that commit crimes or [are] convicted, to protect them from deportation—there are a number of bad policies that have come out and I’m afraid that a lot of those policies may now become federal policies and we need to be vigilant.
And what I would say is, there is hope in knowing that our freshman class has a dynamic group of people who are just as passionate as I am about preserving our freedoms and liberties and pushing back against socialism.
For me, it’s personal, daughter of a Cuban refugee. … I know what it’s like in other countries and we don’t want to see that happening here in the United States of America. A country like Venezuela, which was the richest nation in South America, and all of a sudden look where it is today. We need to be vigilant about that. We need to push back and expose what they’re doing.
That is why I’ve teamed up with a number of my colleagues, like [Reps.] Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar, and also [Rep.] Victoria Spartz, all families who came to this country as mine did to achieve the American dream, but also to escape bad governments. In this case, communism or socialism.
So I think we need to do our work in pushing back, exposing what their policies mean. And hopefully we can protect the nation for two years, where we can then take back the House and restore some type of balance. So that I think is something that we need to be very mindful about.
We need the American people’s help. I mean, they need to phone their legislators. They need to have petitions. They need to make their voices heard. They need to speak out and let their members of Congress know that they shouldn’t be going along with the socialist policies being proposed by people like [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And that’s the only way we’re going to see some type of balance, is if they hear from the constituents that elected them.
Allen: Rep. Malliotakis, you have been so vocal about doing just that, about pushing back against representatives that are so far on the left, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, other members of “the squad.”
And you referenced that yourself and other new conservative representatives are really teaming up to push back on that agenda. And you’re calling yourself the Freedom Force.
Could you just explain a little bit about kind of the idea of the Freedom Force and how that came about, that you all sort of teamed up and said, “OK, we need to be this force for liberty and our nation”?
Malliotakis: It was sort of a natural alliance that had occurred in forum during our first week of freshman orientation.
Carlos Gimenez, I’ve known him for a couple of years now. He was the mayor of Miami and he actually came to this country as a 6-year-old boy from Cuba. So he escaped communism and he knows exactly what it’s all about, as does Victoria Spartz, who left the Ukraine, grew up under Soviet Union rule.
And then Maria Salazar, like me, is a daughter of Cuban refugees. And we had this similar bond, similar experiences, our family’s experiences that sort of brought us together.
And we kind of just in a natural way formed this alliance that has sort of taken off, we’ve gotten a lot of media coverage. And the media, I believe, is the one that named us the actual Freedom Force.
But the bottom line is we are people that love this country. We appreciate the opportunity that this country has given us.
To think about Carlos Gimenez or Victoria Spartz, to come here as immigrants and to become members of the United States Congress; the fact that I, the daughter of a Cuban refugee, can become a member of the United States Congress, that is the American dream that we want to preserve for future generations and in order to do that, we have to keep what’s so truly special about this nation.
Allen: I’m really glad that you all have embraced that term, Freedom Force. I think that’s a perfect way to describe you all. What should we expect to see from the Freedom Force over at least the next two years?
Malliotakis: Well, you’re definitely going to see us teaming up and speaking out and pushing back against some of the radical policies that we see come from the Democrats.
We are going to be individuals that introduce legislation that support[s] our law enforcement, that push[es] for our freedoms; make sure that we are speaking out in unison when we need to both for and against policies that benefit the American people and preserve what is so great about this nation, which is freedom and liberty.
I think that you can look to us, certainly, when we see some of the crazy ideas that we are expecting to come from the left, to be there pushing back and being vocal about it and making sure that the people in this country know what exactly these policies are.
Because sometimes you introduce bills or you introduce concepts that may be really, really great ideas or great names, but when you actually look at the details of the legislation, you see how horrible it is.
And people don’t understand what it means that President Biden’s first action was to rejoin the Paris accord and, actually, his first action as president benefited the people of China, communist China, more than it did the Americans. To me, that’s unconscionable, but we need to expose that because people don’t understand.
I support energy efficiency, I am an environmental person, I do cleanups, I support my local waterfronts, making sure that we’re teaching our children about energy efficiency and not littering, I want to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but to support a policy that would put America at a disadvantage, where we have to meet certain standards by 2025, where China and India don’t have to do anything until 2030, doesn’t seem very fair and it is not fair.
And the fact that he just signed back onto this without even trying to get additional concessions to make it more equitable was, I think, not in the best interest of the American people.
So between that and the Keystone Pipeline—which will kill tens of thousands of jobs, union jobs, good paying jobs—[those], to me, are not policies that serve the best interest of America.
So that’s just the first day, it’s just the first day. And there’s a lot more that we’re expecting with amnesty for illegal immigrants and some other policies and rollbacks of some of the good things that President Trump did.
Allen: No, in the first day it was disheartening to see how quickly President Biden is taking these actions.
You mentioned illegal immigration, I know that’s an issue that affects New York. It affects our whole country, but it’s something that you all have definitely dealt with in New York. Could you talk a little bit about your concerns over Biden’s moves on the front of illegal immigration?
Malliotakis: We’re making so much progress in border security, in controlling illegal immigration over the southern border. And he just went and is now looking to just dismantle all of it.
I’m a daughter of immigrants and as such, I have a deep appreciation for individuals who want to achieve the American dream, as my parents did.
I think that we do need to modernize our immigration system, so people don’t have to wait many years and, in some cases, decades to become a citizen of this great country. People that want to come here and work hard and contribute and have a good life, I support that. We have laws and we have procedures and they need to be followed.
And I think that one of the things we see in New York is that our state government and other states have been doing the same, are incentivizing illegal immigration. And whether it be by policies that give free college tuition, or driver’s licenses, or health care, or any other benefits, you’re incentivizing individuals to come here illegally and rewarding that behavior. And I think that that is not something we should be doing as a nation.
We have to make sure we know who is coming in and out of our country. We need a visa entry-exit tracking system. We should be implementing E-Verify and we should be working to modernize our system, of course.
I think that has to be something that we hear all sides and come up with something that is a good policy, not just this knee-jerk response that we’re seeing from President Biden in his first day.
Allen: Yeah. And one of the issues that I know is on the minds of so many Americans is that of election integrity. And you recently co-sponsored a piece of legislation called the Save Democracy Act. Could you just explain what that is and its agenda?
Malliotakis: Yeah, the Save Democracy Act is a bill a number of us have co-sponsored where—look, we want to address the concerns and the irregularities that took place in the 2020 election. We want to make sure that Americans have confidence that the system that we have is one that is secure and there are safeguards put in place.
And so things that we’ve heard from our constituents, they want to see voter ID laws. They want to make sure that we restrict certain types of ballot harvesting tactics. We want to make sure that individuals, if there are automatic voter registration laws in states, that they’re not automatically registering people who provide a foreign identification.
Like, for example, New York just changed its law, where individuals who apply for a driver’s license—and now keep in mind that noncitizens apply for driver’s licenses and any illegal immigrants can have driver’s licenses in the state of New York.
So when they come with a foreign document to apply for that driver’s license, their information is automatically sent to the board of elections to automatically register them to vote, unless they do the due diligence of opting out.
And that is a major issue, where’s the safeguard in that? So we want to make sure that any automatic voter registration laws only take effect when an individual comes forward with a proof of citizenship, and that’s another safeguard in place as well.
Also, when it comes to tabulation and audits and making sure that we restore faith in the tens of millions of Americans who feel that some things went wrong in this election cycle.
So that is the goal of this and I think it’s a very worthy goal, and we need to work toward that. Especially at a time—remember [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi had attempted to insert all sorts of radical election law changes into the COVID relief package of all places.
She wanted to have the automatic voter registration and ballot harvesting and eliminating, banning states from having voter ID laws, … same-day voter registration.
Imagine that, you come to a polling site on Election Day and you can register and vote without giving [the] board of elections the proper time to vet you, make sure you’re a citizen, that you actually live in the jurisdiction, and that you meet the requirements.
These are the things that we need to be mindful of as we’re going forward. And I think it’s a good bill and I’m proud to be a co-sponsor and we’re going to continue to advocate for it.
Allen: Representative, before we let you go, I want to ask, over the next two years, what do you really hope your legacy to be?
Malliotakis: Well, I ran my campaign on ensuring that we push for public safety, that we support our law enforcement, that we give them the tools that they need to do their job.
So, certainly, any way that I can support public safety for the people that I represent, border security for our nation, making sure that our men and women in blue have support and the resources and the tools to do their jobs, it’s very important to me.
Also, transportation infrastructure. I think it is important that we start focusing on this because there [are] investments that do need to be made for dealing with population growth and economic growth in various cities and states.
I could tell you, coming from New York, where we have such aging infrastructure, subway signals, a lot of it’s relying on pre-World War II-condition equipment. We need to look at modernizing where we can and investing in infrastructure I think is a very important, worthy thing.
I think that between those two policy points—plus somebody who is going to stand up against socialism and make sure that we do preserve this nation and what makes it truly special.
So I think the American people can count on me to be somebody who will be that voice against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the squad. It’s personal to me. And I know that we do have a fight ahead of us and we’re going to have to continue forging ahead because I know it’s the right thing to do.
Allen: Rep. Malliotakis, all the best to you in that fight. Thank you so much for joining the show today.
Malliotakis: I appreciate your time. Thank you.