By Emiliano Davalos
Republican Congressional candidate Anthony Pappas—who is running against Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th congressional district—showed up to his very first press conference with documents of his divorce along with a towel in his bag.
To start the press conference, he quietly lectured 40 student journalists from The Princeton Summer Journal about a case in which a young person was sterilized, scribbling the words “fallopian tubes” and “testicles” on the chalkboard behind him. He then argued that judges were allowing such tragedies to happen. He held out his towel to depict how a mother might hold up a child, and explained a court case in which a woman, at the age of 15, had been unknowingly sterilized—while being falsely told that the surgery was to remove her appendix. “Judges are above the law,” he said, explaining that he was fixated on reforming the judicial system.
In a district where Democrats hold a 6-to-1 majority, Pappas is running without much support from the local or national Republican party. He devoted the majority of his press conference to discussing his 2009 divorce and arguing that the judiciary system is corrupt. At one point in the press conference, Pappas asked someone in the room to validate the legitimacy of documents from his divorce proceeding. These documents alleged that he had committed domestic violence, resulting in the need for reconstructive surgery for his wife.
Although Pappas believes that not all judges are corrupt, he sees his divorce as part of a systemic problem. “We are gods, you can’t question us,” he said, characterizing the attitude of judges. He alleged that the judge on the case had “threatened retaliation on me” and “hallucinated that I committed a major crime.”
Not all people who win elections are experienced politicians, so why, you might ask, can’t an eccentric-seeming candidate who has just held his first press conference manage to become a congressman? Then again, in a heavily Democratic district, Pappas faces long odds, and his opponent’s campaign appears confident. Ocasio-Cortez’s senior advisor, Saikat Chakrabarti—who held a press conference with The Princeton Summer Journal following Pappas’s appearance—put it this way: “I think she is going to win.”