ASTORIA – Nick Di Iorio thinks this will be a great year for Republicans nationwide and in New York State. He has joined the battle for control of Congress by challenging incumbent Carolyn Maloney for the 12th Congressional District, which covers parts of the East Side of Manhattan, Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Western Queens, including Astoria.
He is motivated by a strong sense of giving back serving his community, ideals shaped by his family which he once thought he would express by becoming a Roman Catholic priest. Although he came to the realization that he wanted to have a family and that he could serve God in other ways, he told TNH he will always be grateful for the six years he spend in seminary.
The experience was also transformative on the political front. He began life as a Democrat, like his identical twin, Andrew, an attorney who works for President Obama and vice president Biden.
He can’t really explain how they diverged, but Nick’s conservative leanings became clear to him in college, where he studied philosophy and theology.
“It allowed me to see that you cannot have a true culture unless there are certain universal principles about the way we operate as human beings, how we exist in the community,” and that led him to conservatism.
His perspective on public service also shifted from the idealistic to the practical. “Politics is an opportunity to solve problems,” he said, though there were earlier roots. When he and Andrew were 14, they worked on a Democratic campaign. “It was a chance to realize that politics can be a good instrument of change and could help give people better lives.” He said “I still believe that, and that’s why I am running for office.”
Though conservative, he has a realistic, not ideological perspective on the social safety net based on personal experience.
His older brother, who has a rare neurological disorder, is already on social security. “He needed the safety net. My parents could not get by without it. But we have to bring social programs into to the 21st century…If we don’t update them, make sure they are efficient, free of fraud and waste, there won’t be funds for my brother when he is in his 60s and 70s.”
He also believes that with three basic changes, Obamacare can be improved. “We have to deregulate it, make sure patients can keep their old doctors, and allow for insurance plans to be sold across state lines.”
He knows quite a bit about the healthcare industry though his work as a financial contractor with Pfizer after he moved to New York in 2010.
The family business also taught him the dangers of overregulation, which he believes keep small businesses from growing. “My mother and father grew up in the same part of Rhode Island. My family owns a bakery in Providence… I was very proud of the work they did…I scrubbed the dishes and washed the pans.”
He noted that small businesses are the backbone of the Greek as also with the Italian-American communities. Both groups value education, and he is a strong supporter of charter schools and a federal education tax credit for families.
“Charter schools are as much public schools as are district schools,” he said, adding, “They work together and make sure families have options… There are 70,000 children waiting to get into charter schools in New York City.”
Di Iorio follows national security issues closely, and knows that “Cyprus and Greece are a crucial part of our national security apparatus in that part of the world,” and that “Turkey is not friend… The money Turkey has been giving to Hamas and Hezbollah…does not bode well for the relationship.”
He noted, however that “the best thing the United States can to for Greece and Cyprus is to make sure that we are defending Israel, making sure that the NATO alliance is strong, and that the economies of Cyprus and Greece are going strong and make sure that we are trading with those two countries.”
As a second-generation American, immigration is an important issue for him.
“The first thing we need to do regarding undocumented immigration is to secure the border. It’s an intolerable situation that for the last 20 years we have tried to have immigration reform but we haven’t gotten there because we don’t have a secure border. Without that you cannot have a real conversation about immigration reform.”
He believes he can have such potentially fruitful conversations with Democrats on a variety of issues. He has the DNA to prove that he can work people on the other side of the aisle.
Di Iorio accepted The National Herald’s invitation to participate in an informal debate at its Long Island City headquarters with his Democrat rival, but at press time there been no response from the Maloney campaign to a similar invitation.