9 voters in New York City's only red congressional district talk Trump and flipping the House

Donald Trump campaigns in Staten Island in April, 2016.Donald Trump campaigns in Staten Island in April, 2016.Dennis Van Tine/AP

  • Staten Island and a chunk of South Brooklyn will decide whether to keep or replace New York City's lone congressional Republican on Tuesday. 
  • Polls have Republican Rep. Dan Donovan and Democratic challenger Max Rose within single digits of each other. 
  • Voters at Rose's polling place on Tuesday - including some who voted for President Donald Trump - told INSIDER they support Rose in large part because they want a check on Trump. 

Staten Island has long been New York City's most conservative borough. Some New Yorkers like to think of it as more akin to New Jersey than the Big Apple. 

But Staten Islanders and a chunk of South Brooklyn will decide on Tuesday whether to break from tradition and replace New York City's lone Republican in Congress with a Democrat.

Their choice is between incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Donovan, who has tacked toward the center since seeking President Donald Trump's endorsement in his contentious primary, and Max Rose, a 31-year-old Army veteran and former health care executive who's framing himself as an independent voice. Recent polls have the candidates within single digits of each other.  

Issues that came up in conversations with Staten Island voters on Tuesday: traffic congestion, the opioid crisis, and reining in the president. 

Read more: Here's what a dozen voters in one of the country's most competitive Senate races think about politics right now

Trump won Staten Island by 17 points, despite the fact that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans on the island by nearly two-to-one. 

One such voter, Steven Gross - a 51-year-old dad of two who has lived on Staten Island all his life - cast his ballot for Trump in 2016 despite being a registered Democrat, but voted for Rose on Tuesday because he wants to see a check on the president. 

"I don't want to let him do everything that he wants to do," he said in an interview with INSIDER at his Staten Island polling place, PS 16, on Tuesday. 

 
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"I voted straight Democrat, but I'm an independent."

"I voted straight Democrat, but I'm an independent."

Charlie Sauss — a 70-year-old musician and Vietnam vet — called Tuesday's elections "probably the most important election in my lifetime" and said he "reluctantly" voted for Rose "because he's a Democrat, and that's it."

He added that "in any other year" he would have voted for Donovan, who he generally likes, but this year he wants to see "everything flipped."

"I voted straight Democrat, but I'm an independent," he said, calling Trump a "devil." "I didn't care who they were, what name was on there, I voted for Democrats."

Sauss said Rose's abundant advertising and constant mention of his military experience has irritated him.

"He mentions the Army too much and I find it offensive," Sauss said. "How many times is he gonna say it and in how many ways?"

"You can't give [Trump] free rein."

"You can't give [Trump] free rein."

William Castillo — a Vietnam veteran who grew up in Brooklyn — moved to Staten Island a year ago after he lost his home in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria, where he lived for the previous 33 years.

His biggest concern is the cost of living — particularly housing — and he said he doesn't trust Trump primarily because he's a real estate mogul.

On Trump, Castillo says, "You can't give him free rein."

"[Trump]'s very racist."

"[Trump]'s very racist."

Brenda and Luis Carazas, siblings and students at the College of Staten Island who moved to New York from Peru in 2006 and are both new US citizens, had nothing good to say about Trump.

"He's very racist," said Brenda, a 21-year-old independent. "He's not a typical president."

Luis, 19, said he and his sister voted for Rose because he'd shake things up.

"The younger image — it brings more attitude to it," Luis said.

"If [Rose] is willing and able to earn a purple heart for our country then he should be able to serve."

"If [Rose] is willing and able to earn a purple heart for our country then he should be able to serve."

Rafael Montanez, 48, a native Staten Islander and retired police officer, said the district needs a change and he trusts Rose to bring it.

"If he's willing and able to earn a purple heart for our country then he should be able to serve in the House of Representatives," he said.

He argued that Donovan and his Republican colleagues are "basically the cause of all the opioid issues we have now" because they take money from the pharmaceutical industry.

"I just know I'm a Democrat and I'm for the people."

"I just know I'm a Democrat and I'm for the people."

Darren Ganzy — a 49-year-old bus operator — said "we could be here all day" if he listed the reasons he doesn't like Trump, but added that he's "not too political."

"I just know I'm a Democrat and I'm for the people," Ganzy said. "I'm not about the right-wing and all that anger they're putting out."

He voted a straight Democratic ticket.

"I really want to put a check on Donald Trump."

"I really want to put a check on Donald Trump."

Susan Lob — a 65-year-old part-time graduate school instructor — has lived in Staten Island for three years has been very involved in the congressional election for months.

"I really want to put a check on Donald Trump," Lob said, adding that she has volunteered for Rose. "I actually sought out candidates and invited them to my home to talk to other people, so I've been pretty involved since the beginning of the primaries."

"Just shut up and vote."

"Just shut up and vote."

John O'Hara — a bartender and actor born and raised in Staten Island — voted for Rose and tends to support Democrats, but likes to think of himself as an independent (he wrote in Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016).

O'Hara said that while he thinks Trump is "a clown," he doesn't like to rail against the president.

"I don't get into it because my philosophy is if someone is crazy, you don't engage ... just shut up and vote," O'Hara said, adding he has "a lot of friends that are very much Trump supporters."

"We're just keeping our fingers crossed."

"We're just keeping our fingers crossed."

Steven Gross — a 51-year-old dad of two who brought his daughters Eva, 11, and Cora, 9, to the polls on Tuesday — is a registered Democrat who voted for Trump in 2016 and still supports the president, but wants to keep him in check with more Democrats in Washington.

"He could stay off of Twitter, that's for sure. He could stop feeding his ego," Gross said of the president. "Other than that, we're just keeping our fingers crossed and hope he does a good job."

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