Sliwa’s colorful run for New York mayor

NEW YORK (AP) – Wearing his signature red beret, Curtis Sliwa is on TV, stroking one of his 16 rescue cats in a campaign ad. He’s in the metro with his Guardian Angel Crime Patrol. He puts an end to restaurant fights in Little Italy and blames the Mafia and the mayor when he is banned from judging the meatball-eating contest.

This is how the Republican candidate embarks on an unlikely quest to become mayor of New York – always wearing his red hat.

Sliwa has spent decades as a stunt-loving New York character, with a knack for keeping press cameras close at hand and a history of bombastic statements. He once survived an attempted mob strike prompted by his radio commentary.

The Republican insists his campaign this year is not a long shot, but rather a slingshot of David and Goliath, with Sliwa as a wise “common man” speaking out about crime and disorder.

“I’m the only Republican who can go to neighborhoods where the only Republican they’ve ever seen is Abraham Lincoln with a $ 5 bill and be well received,” Sliwa told The Associated Press this week in an interview. to her cat filled. apartment.

“I think most people don’t necessarily see me as a Republican. They see me more as a populist. – It’s Curtis. We know him, ”Sliwa said. He says the fact that he won the Republican nomination when he never voted for Trump is a sign he can improbably win against the Democrats.

At a campaign rally later that day, he dismissed the idea that winning was impossible, saying he had “been David against Goliath” his entire life.

Sliwa is widely expected to lose next month’s election to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat and former New York City police captain who is believed to be the city’s second black mayor.

In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-1, Adams emerged from a crowded primary field as a candidate with a more subdued image, a pro-business approach, and a singular perspective on crime that has mixed his time with the NYPD, his past advocacy calling for reform in the department, and experiences of police brutality as a teenager.

Sliwa, 67, has been a ubiquitous figure in New York City since he founded the anti-crime group Guardian Angels in 1979. The unarmed unit of young men and women dressed in red berets and matching jackets began by patrolling in the city of New York, then plagued by crime. subway system and extended into the city before creating chapters across the United States

The 320 square foot Upper West Side apartment Sliwa shares with his wife Nancy is decorated with numerous campaign posters and images of himself and their many cats. Part of a wall is covered with old newspaper clippings and posters of the early exploits of the Guardian Angels, a sign that read “Crack Down on Crack” and some police sketches of decades-old rape suspects. .

He says the painting is a reminder of the band’s roots in a more gritty New York City.

“His analysis of New York is, in some ways, very archaic and I think a lot of voters see him as a holdover from old New York, with his red beret and I would say a racialized understanding of how the city works, which I do not know. I don’t think many New Yorkers are interested right now, ”said Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University.

Sliwa won the Republican primary earlier this year after beating restaurateur Fernando Mateo.

Two decades of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg in the mayor’s office prove that Republicans can – or at least once could – overcome the Democrats’ advantage in the city.

But Sliwa’s style and reputation, Greer said, means he’s “not really taken seriously by a certain segment of the population.”

Sliwa’s talent for attention turned deadly serious in 1992 when he was shot after using his radio show to pillory Mafia boss John Gotti. He escaped his alleged assassins by diving out of a car window.

He confessed after the real attack that he had in the past concocted stories about the exploits of guardian angels, including foiling a rape and a fake story about Sliwa’s kidnapping by Transit Authority police.

After making obscene and racist remarks on television and radio about the head of city council, he was briefly excluded from a regular spot on a local television talk show. Sliwa then apologized for his comments.

Last summer, when Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio banned swimming on city beaches in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Sliwa staged a protest on Coney Island, first by pasting a cutout in cardboard of de Blasio’s face on the beach and kicking the sand on it. He then swam for about an hour, in a wetsuit and red beret, ignoring orders from city park officials to get out of the water.

As a candidate for mayor, he has been true to his ways.

Sliwa holds almost daily press conferences throughout the city, often at crime scenes on a day when he denounces the city’s failing leadership. In a shootout not far from his apartment, he lay face down in the street, looking for a “smoking gun” under a car as the television cameras rolled.

His campaign posted videos purporting to show Sliwa and her guardian angels streaming at a restaurant in Little Italy to separate and hold unruly customers.

Sliwa dismisses Adams as being out of touch and away from the streets, and hammered him over for reports he vacationed in Monaco and organized fundraisers in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard. He jumped on reports wondering if Adams really lived in his Brooklyn brownstone, crossing a bridge to Fort Lee, New Jersey, holding a carton of milk with Adams’ face “missing”.

Adams, meanwhile, largely ignored Sliwa.

“It’s a challenge for me to strike up a conversation with someone who admitted to making up crime stories” and “doing antics every day,” Adams said in a recent radio interview.

“We’re going to have to endure the antics of someone who thinks it’s a circus for four weeks, and I’m going to put up with it because it’s the process,” Adams told WNYC. “But can we take Curtis Sliwa seriously on anything, given his history in this town?” “

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