By Fatima Rivera Gomez
When Anthony Pappas, the Republican candidate for Congress in New York’s 14th congressional district, appeared at a press conference at Fordham University on Wednesday, journalists initially spoke over him because they did not realize he was the candidate they were waiting for.
Pappas is running against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is expected to win the election this November in the heavily Democratic district, which covers parts of the Bronx and Queens. Wearing an untucked, button-front short-sleeve shirt and tattered khaki pants, Pappas—an economics professor at St. John’s University—began the press conference by asking the reporters how they would have felt if they had been sterilized. He then wrote a few words on the whiteboard including: “tubal ligation,” “fallopian tubes,” and “testicles.”
In the midst of some confusion in the room, Pappas explained Stump v. Sparkman, a 1978 case in which a woman sued the judge who ordered her to undergo a non-consensual tubal ligation when she was 15 years old. On the verge of tears, he pulled a towel from his bag in reference to a book about the case, The Blanket She Carried. The towel symbolized the baby the woman could not have, he said.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which set an important precedent by ruling that judges are immune from being sued. In a packet handed out during the press conference, Pappas wrote “OVERTURN STUMP V. SPARKMAN, the worst decision in the 20th century by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Pappas’ congressional platform centers on criminal and justice reform and an end to judges being immune from prosecution. “Judges are above the law. They can make decisions that are retaliatory, against the law, against the facts, deliberately false and they cannot be sued,” Pappas said.
He also believes that he is a victim of the court system himself, after a divorce in which his wife accused him of domestic abuse—an accusation he denies. A court decision Pappas distributed showed he had spent more than $592,000 on his divorce.
At one point, Pappas described himself as a Theodore Roosevelt figure for Republicans. When asked about his opponent, Pappas said that Ocasio-Cortez is an energetic and sincere person, adding that he expects that she will win the election.