As Democrats have increasingly consolidated control over the five boroughs, Guardian Angels Founder and talk radio host Curtis Sliwa (R) plans to use public dissatisfaction with their excesses to pull an upset in next year’s mayoral election.
Sliwa told Kings County Politics that his background as the only Republican in the city with “the credibility in the streets” needed to take on the voter mobilization capabilities of “the AOC wing of the Democratic Party.”
“They have mastered the ability to get people out into the streets, and it can be highly intimidating,” he said.
“My candidacy is going to get them to liberate themselves and get out into the streets because I’m the one Republican who’s comfortable in projects, comfortable in tenements, comfortable in being outside in very adversarial situations where people are coming at me a mile a minute.”
Sliwa added that despite the fundraising disadvantages his campaign will have compared to other mayoral candidates, his decades-long work as a vigilante equips him on the issue of public security. “I doubt they have the same name recognition, the same reputation, and obviously the knowledge that I went through this, and what we’re going through now in the city is [what we went through] in the 70s and 80s,” he recalled.
“That was the whole reason I started the Guardian Angels, because they cut back on the cops. There were no uniformed police officers patrolling the subways at night, and crime was skyrocketing. I responded by getting black, white, Hispanic, Asian young men, young women involved.”
He added that in a time of economic uncertainty, fiscal restraint, including massive budget cuts, will be necessary. “There’s going to have to be cuts in every budgetary item. The police are going to be cut and defunded. Everything’s gonna be defunded,” said Sliwa. “And that means we’re gonna have to learn to do more with less.”
He also declared he wants New Yorkers to avoid pressure to leave and instead work to make things better. “Stand and fight for what you know is right,” said Sliwa. “Improve, don’t move.”
Sliwa, touting his populist credentials, cited an example of such a budget cut. “I’m in the trains constantly. I’m in the streets. There would be no security detail with me as mayor. You want to defund the cops? Okay, no cops on a security detail. I’m not afraid of the people. I don’t need a taxpayer SUV that all these elected officials have,” he said.
“And I guarantee you if all elected officials had to do it, how much better service there would be on the subways and buses and how much better policing would be if they didn’t have their own police details that comfort them and keep them secure while denying that same service to other people.”
His call for New Yorkers to make sacrifices for the good of the city also carries into his stance on how to handle the COVID-19 crisis, blasting Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) for his handling of the pandemic in state nursing homes.
“You can’t continue to clean yourself up on a radiator. You can’t continue to chain yourself up in an air conditioner,” said Sliwa.
“You take people like myself [with preconditions], and you say you’re not going anywhere. You’re sheltered in. And hipsters and millennials will have to go out there, maybe hustle, get a side hustle, a few side jobs, and pay the Social Security, and Medicare, and the Medicaid because without which we baby boomers would be screwed.”
Sliwa then discussed his path to victory, touting the importance of independent voters and acknowledged that identity politics would be a struggle for any Republican candidate to navigate. Still, he insisted that he is not intimidated by that issue. “Any candidate jumping in as a Republican is going to be called a racist,” he said. “If they happen to be white, they’re going to be called a racist. If they happen to be a person of color, they’re gonna be called self-hating or race traitors,” he lamented.
“It’s like piranhas with blood in the water, and unless you are fit to get into that kind of atmosphere, you’re gonna get the same twenty-five or thirty percent of the vote.”
Sliwa continued. “You don’t become Mayor of the City of New York unless you get black, Hispanic, gay and lesbian, hipster, and millennial votes,” he said.
“You have to get out there, I have to get into those neighborhoods, and you’re gonna catch a verbal beatdown, it’s going to be very intimidating, but you’re gonna have to stand and fight for what you know what’s right.”
Another challenge of significance Sliwa recognizes is the city’s young and hipster-fueled demographic shifts, stating that most of his fellow Republicans have failed to recognize that the factors that got Rudy Giuliani (R) and Michael Bloomberg (I) elected as mayor no longer apply.
“They haven’t been to Woodside, Sunnyside, or even Bay Ridge which has normally been a strong Republican conservative enclave. No more,” he noted. “Unless you have taken the temperature of the city every week, every month the way I do, you would be oblivious to that.
Sliwa concluded by asserting his strong sense of New York City pride.“Nobody knows this city better than Curtis Sliwa,” he said.
“You cut my veins and arteries and I bleed New York City, and I have bled throughout New York City, so I’ve got that street cred.”