With voting in the primaries set for Tuesday morning, New York City Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa spoke with Breitbart News about his recent endorsements, his focus on returning safety to the crime-ridden city, and his ability to reach out to those voters neglected by Republicans due to his credibility established in “tough neighborhoods.”
Asked why it’s important for registered voters to turn out and vote for him, Sliwa pointed to his concern for safety.
“I announced on March 15th that there’s one issue: crime; law and order; public safety; quality of life,” he said. “All the other candidates were talking about everything else.”
“[Contending Republican mayoral candidate Fernando] Mateo, too, at that time was talking about restaurants and businesses coming back,” he added.
Noting “nothing happens unless you deal with crime,” Sliwa pointed out that Democrats only began addressing the issue after seeing a shift in public sentiment.
“If you’ve noticed, some of the Democrats — not all of them — have looked at their own polls of Democratic [primary] voters and what is their number one issue? Not police reform, but crime — what are we going to do about crime?” he said.
“I didn’t just have an epiphany and discover that this is the main issue that is affecting New York City,” he added.
Touting his recent endorsement from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sliwa boasted of his trusted ability to restore safety to the city’s streets.
“When you look at the panoply of candidates, there’s no one more synonymous with cracking down on crime than yours truly,” he said, “and it’s reflected by the fact that I was endorsed by Rudy Giuliani, the mayor famous for law and order and saving the city from the crime that had consumed us at at a time when we were the country’s murder capital.”
“He [Giuliani] says, ‘This [Sliwa] is the guy who can bring law and order, who can support the cops, who can get our streets, subways and parks back to being safe,’” he added. “‘So he’s been doing it for 42 years, [Sliwa] did it with me, he helped me become mayor with the Guardian Angels, did it all during my mayoralty and has continued to do it.’”
When asked how a Republican could have a realistic shot at taking on Democrats to become New York’s mayor, Sliwa noted that times have changed.
“Remember, the demographics are different now than they were for Rudy [Giuliani] and [Michael] Bloomberg, and [George] Pataki,” he said.
“Actually, I have a more favorable reception in those neighborhoods where the only Republican they’ve ever seen is Abraham Lincoln on a $5 bill,” he added.
Sliwa then explained how having established credibility in tough areas has brought him support from otherwise neglected and stubborn voters.
“I didn’t establish my credibility in Park Avenue,” he said. “I established my credibility in the inner-city, the projects, subways, and tough neighborhoods.”
“So I’m not going to have a hard sell to the people who were born and grew up there because they’ll say ‘Curtis is not a fair-weather friend, he’s been here for 42 years,’” he explained.
Sliwa expressed his willingness to reach out to those neglected by Republican candidates in the past, claiming such voters would listen to him.
“Whether they agree or disagree with me, they’ll listen to me,” he said.
“In the past, Republicans didn’t even campaign in those neighborhoods. They’d say it’s ‘wasted time, we’re not going to get any votes, and we’ll probably get chased out,’” he explained, adding “it could be embarrassing, so don’t even go there.”
But Sliwa sees no boundaries for his campaigning.
“Me?” he asked. “I go everywhere.”
He then noted the impact of having reputable Republicans throw their support behind his campaign.
“The major change in the last few weeks is that Rudy has come on board,” he said, “and [Rep.] Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), our only Republican congresswoman from the area, has come on board.”
“The people that have the greatest impact in the city, including all the elected Republican officials, have endorsed me on the lower levels: Council, Assembly, State Senate,” he added. “They’ve all endorsed me; even former state senator Marty Golden, a former cop, has endorsed me.”
Sliwa attributed the support from such figures to his reputation, which he described as “synonymous” with law and order.
“When you look at all these Republicans who know that law and order and crime is the top issue, they haven’t hesitated to support me because they know that’s what I’m synonymous with,” he said.
“You go up to people and say ‘Sliwa,’ they’ll say ‘he’s all about law and order, fighting crime,'” he added.
He also expressed his belief that such support was an endorsement of his capabilities.
“I think when Republican voters saw Giuliani support me, it just reaffirms that what you saw him do in bringing back the city, the quality of life, the public safety, and he said ‘Curtis will take care of it, because Curtis was with me when I did it with the Guardian Angels and he knows how to do it.’”
He then noted the twin challenges of Republican distrust of the voting system along with a media blackout of Republican candidates.
“There are really two factors: you have Republicans, many whom don’t trust the election mechanism to determine the vote, and the fact that the media has barely covered me and Mateo,” he said.
“It’s a tsunami of information every day [by the mainstream media] about all the Democrats running,” he added. “Even the lower-tier candidates who haven’t even participated in the debates because they didn’t qualify, they get more attention than us.”
Sliwa described apathy and indifference as the “biggest obstacles” to garnering more Republican votes.
“The ‘indifference’ because they don’t trust the voting system, and the ‘apathy’ because they don’t think that their vote matters,” he said.
Sliwa then stated that his message to voters attempts to instill trust in the voting system.
“My classic line to voters, because so many of them tell me they have ‘Curtis stories’ over the years — times where either I or the Guardian Angels have had an impact on them — is asking them whether I’ve ever asked a favor of them, to which they admit that I never have.”
“‘I need you to come out and vote,’ I reply to them,” Sliwa said. “‘I need you to encourage other registered Republicans to come out and vote. You gotta trust me on this, you’re not wasting your time.”
Claiming that he is constantly meeting new people, Sliwa explained that he uses his encounters to continuously motivate potential voters.
“I’m out there everywhere and I’m doing retail so I meet a lot of people and I give a lot of people guilt,” he said. “So if after I gave them guilt and motivated them, they go to the polls, it’ll be a vote.”
When asked about the media discounting a Republican candidate in an election where crime and safety are the election’s number one issue, Sliwa was unfazed.
“I would remember all the prognosticators, the writers, saying, ‘whoever wins the Democratic primary will be the city’s next mayor,’” he said.
“Don’t they remember [former Gov. George] Pataki?” he asked. “Nobody knew Pataki. At least people know me, but nobody knew Pataki.”
Sliwa then accused the media of “ignoring” Republican candidates due to their strong stance on crime, which speaks to many voters today.
“I think the media is really going with this narrative that the Democrat that wins the primary will become the mayor, totally ignoring Republicans in this race, especially because safety is the public’s main concern, and in an election like this, they know a Republican strong on safety can be a real viable threat to the Democratic machine,” he said.
Sliwa went on to describe his background in public safety as his “sweet spot.”
“Of all the candidates, that’s my sweet spot,” he said. “You may fault me on other issues, saying ‘he’s not experienced,’ but I’ve got the background in public safety, law and order, plus Rudy’s endorsement.”
“But the whole key is getting people to vote,” he concluded.
In April, Sliwa warned that crime would continue to take a heavy toll on the city’s recovery if it is not dealt with.
“The candidates running for office don’t seem to understand that without public safety, our recovery grinds to a halt,” he told Breitbart News.
Last month, he called to “refund” the city’s police, increasing the force’s budget which was previously cut by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.