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New York City’s GOP candidates for mayor were confronted by past misdeeds during their Wednesday night debate — but mostly kept their cool and held back the gut-punches while delving into the issues.
After their hostile face-of last week, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa and businessman Fernando Mateo pulled it together for their WPIX/Channel 7 face-off, as they agreed on nearly every topic.
One of their few rifts came when former President Donald Trump was brought up. Sliwa said he didn’t vote for Trump, while Mateo expressed his fervent support for the ex-president — and revealed he’d met with Trump earlier on Thursday.
“Trump is hurt by what is happening to the city. He has compassion for New York and New Yorkers,” Mateo said, as he touted his endorsement from former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Asked about past sexist comments he made about former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a racist impression he did on TV, Sliwa apologized.
“Those were terrible mistakes on my part,” he said. “I apologize. That was totally inappropriate of me.”
His opponent, however, maintained he had done nothing wrong when asked about the scandal surrounding his now-shuttered restaurant on the Hudson River waterfront, La Marina.
“There was nothing wrong that I did or that my partners did,” Mateo said, painting himself as having been victimized by city agencies.
But Sliwa was having none of it, telling Mateo, “You have to apologize for La Marina.”
“What happened to me should never have happened. I will never apologize,” Mateo shot back.
Although the opponents were a lot more subdued, they still took a few shots at each other — with Mateo trying to paint Sliwa as a fake Republican.
“He’s making a mockery out of our party,” Mateo charged.
In response, Sliwa accused his rival of being a “de Blasio Republican,” bringing up Mateo’s ties the mayor’s pay-to-play fundraising scandal.
“You helped elect a man who has single-handedly destroyed our city,” Sliwa fumed.
But he seemed to lash out at Gov. Andrew Cuomo more than his own opponent.
On the subject of qualified immunity for cops, Sliwa railed, “Cuomo is responsible for the killing of thousands of people in long-term health care units and he has qualified immunity.”
“I was outside of his office yesterday and I was protesting the fact that he was having a fundraiser while under investigation,” Sliwa later said about the gov.
“He got bloodstained money from that book and now he wants to raise money to go after his accusers?,” Sliwa continued. “No. I will be an adversary of Andrew Cuomo because he needs to go.”
Mateo instead emphasized that he had experience working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The two also diverged on whether to bail out struggling medallion drivers, with Sliwa saying there wasn’t enough cash to do that.
Mateo, an advocate for taxi drivers and bodega workers, said that helping hurting cabbies was “about being fair, being human, being a real New Yorker.”
Still, the mayoral hopefuls saw eye to eye on funding the NYPD, were both against COVID-19 passports and both opposed mandating coronavirus vaccines for schoolkids.
On the topic of the school system, Sliwa declared: “We have to eliminate the Department of Education, that bureaucracy has to go.”
The two also agreed that reducing crime on the subways was a top priority.
Sliwa accused the governor of “abandoning responsibility” for the MTA and touted his decades-long record as a transit-system vigilante.
Mateo called for subway stations to become “safe havens” for New Yorkers, with two cops assigned to each station.
“Curtis, when I am mayor I will sit down with you and you will have a position in my administration taking care of subway services,” he quipped.
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