New York City’s Republican mayoral candidates took to the debate stage for the first time ahead of the June primaries Wednesday and things quickly became heated.
Fernando Mateo, a restaurant owner who has led groups advocating for bodega owners and car-service drivers, and Guardian Angels founder and radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa both promised to bring “public safety” back to New York, while accusing the other of being tied to current Mayor Bill de Blasio and of committing criminal acts.
Sliwa responded to Mateo’s claims that he was an “urban Republican” by claiming he’d illegally fundraised for de Blasio (both the New York Times and New York Post confirmed Mateo did fundraise for the current mayor; Mateo confirmed to the Post in 2016 that he’d funneled donations through another person to help that person land a job.)
“You helped elect the man who single-handedly has destroyed this city. There is no person who I have run into in this campaign — Republican, Democrat, independent — who has a nice thing to say about Bill de Blasio,” Sliwa said.
Mateo responded by saying the Sliwa’s claims were shameful and his claims were fake news, comparing them to the claims made against former President Donald Trump.
“I’ve never broken the law in this country, I never will,” said Mateo.
Mateo pointed out that Republicans such as Trump and WABC Radio President John Catsimatidis (WABC-AM hosted the debate, reporter Dominic Carter moderated) had donated to Democrats themselves.
He then accused Sliwa of having his own skeletons in his closet.
“I have enough dirt to cover your body 18 feet over,” Mateo said. “New Yorkers don’t wanna hear about you taking $400,000 from your son that’s autistic. You don’t wanna hear that you were slapped by a lawsuit from the Newark police department for slandering them.”
Sliwa was accused of stealing $400,000 in child support payments to his ex-wife to give it to the Queens borough president campaign of his then-girlfriend, Melinda Katz. The lawsuit was tossed out.
Mateo then claimed that were Sliwa not a public figure, he’d sue him. After saying he should go right ahead, Sliwa then called for Mateo to calm down.
Both the Republican and Democratic primaries for New York City’s next mayor will be held June 22.