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The city’s leading Republican candidates for mayor faced off in an explosive debate on crime, housing, what it means to be a conservative candidate and education on Thursday night.

Curtis Sliwa and Fernando Mateo, the men fighting to bring conservative leadership back to City Hall, both said they’re the right candidates to bring order to New York. A rise in crime has become a major priority for City Hall, the NYPD, the MTA, mayoral candidates and — as a PIX11, NewsNation, Emerson College poll found — New Yorkers.

Sliwa and Mateo each said they’d bring back stop and frisk and a plainclothes anti-crime unit, which was disbanded in June of 2020.

They also both called for greater police presence on subways and buses. Sliwa, who says he’s on subways all the time, also criticized Mateo for not spending enough times on subways.

“I live in subways,” Sliwa said.

Mateo said, if elected, he’d offer Sliwa a job as deputy mayor for subway services.

Mayoral debate’s top moments: Mateo’s meeting with Trump, Sliwa says sorry & more

He also defended himself, saying he can afford not to ride the subways and that there’s nothing wrong with that. In general, he said he supports having wealthy people living in the five boroughs.

“I will welcome back the rich,” he said. “I will make sure they feel part of the foundation of New York City.”

Mateo, who calls himself a “Trump Republican,” has been called a “de Blasio Republican” by Sliwa.

“He is everything but a Republican,” Mateo said about Sliwa.

If elected, the Republican mayoral hopefuls would have to work in a majority Democratic city and state.

“I will be an adversary of Andrew Cuomo because he needs to go,” Sliwa said of the governor.

Mateo said he has a history of working with Democrats and that his abilities as a communicator and businessman would allow him to succeed as a Republican mayor of New York City.

They also disagreed on privatization of the New York City Housing Authority. Sliwa, who said it should not be privatized, wants NYCHA residents to gain equity in their units through small payments so they can buy their own apartments.

Mateo said NYCHA should be privatized because “government has no idea how to run a business.”

Neither candidate supports mandatory vaccinations for school children, but they both have education changes in mind for the city. Mateo, who dropped out of school as a teen and then went to vocational school, wants parents to have more choices on types of schools to send their kids to.

“I would make sure that every parent has a voucher and if they want to send their kids to charter school, private school, Catholic school, any school that they want, that’s where they should send their kids,” he said.

He’d also like to see students in uniforms.

“Everyone should go to school looking like a student,” Mateo said.

New York’s next mayor will have to deal with racial justice issues in schools. Black and Hispanic students made up less than 10 percent of those offered admission into top public schools next academic year based on the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

Sliwa said he’d eliminate critical race theory in schools and wouldn’t want white kids being taught that they have white privilege. Instead, he’d want more civics classes.

“They’re going to be doing the National Anthem as I did,” he said.

He also slammed the Department of Education as a “bureaucracy” that sucks up all the money.

Polled New Yorkers also said homelessness is one of the biggest issues they want the city’s next mayor to handle. More than 50,000 people were homeless in the city at the end of 2020, according to city data.

Mateo said he’d build housing for the homeless in New York City’s industrial parks. He’d make sure they’re not “in people’s backyards.”

Sliwa pointed to “empty space in upstate New York.”

“They’d be more than happy to take our money so that we can rehab the homeless men and women and repatriate them into the city once they’re able to handle a job and pay for their own bills,” he said.

Mateo is an advocate for taxi drivers and bodega owners. Sliwa is founder of the Guardian Angels. Both have said handling crime is at the heart of their campaigns.

The Republican Parties of Brooklyn and Staten Island have backed Sliwa and the Republican Parties of the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens have supported Mateo.

The mayoral debate aired live from 8 – 9 p.m. on PIX11 TV, as well as and the PIX11 News app. PIX11 previously aired a forum with Democratic mayoral candidates.

Curious about the Democratic mayoral candidates? Click here

Prior to the debate, moderators Dan Mannarino, Ayana Harry and Henry Rosoff previewed the debate. Watch the preview below:

During the debate, viewers were encouraged to share their thoughts on the debate on Twitter using #PIXMayoralDebate.