The race for Queens borough president won’t be decided at the polls for over a year, but things are already heating up — and getting personal — on the campaign trail.
After floating a possible BP bid in a speech to the Queens Republican Party two weeks ago, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa exclusively told the Chronicle last Thursday he will run as a Republican against incumbent Democrat Melinda Katz, his longtime ex-partner and the mother of his two youngest children.
“Absolutely,” Sliwa said after he addressed the Juniper Park Civic Association’s meeting. “No doubt about it.”
The controversial radio talk show host added that his wide-ranging, passionate speech to the crowd of over 100 incredibly enthusiastic supporters in Middle Village was his first “unofficial” campaign stop in his quest to knock the “corrupt” Queens Democratic Party down a peg.
“It’s nothing against Melinda,” he told the Chronicle, “it’s just all roads that give the Queens County Democratic machine a badly needed colonic lead through the borough presidency because that’s where the patronage is.”
He didn’t disparage Katz in his speech or his interview with this paper, even going out of his way on multiple occasions to “swear that she’s not corrupt.”
However, he thrashed — and even personally insulted — city agencies like the Department of Transportation and elected officials like Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) and others for only worrying about themselves, not their constituents.
“This is the most corrupt Democratic organization in America, bar none,” he said. “Even more corrupt than Cook County in Illinois, Chicago.
“When it comes to corruption,” the 62-year-old added, “my nose is very good.”
Sounding like a candidate courting Middle Village and surrounding neighborhoods, Sliwa took the city to task on various hyperlocal issues, earning cheers as he slammed the DOT for not resurfacing parts of Woodhaven Boulevard.
“If I’m running a shop, if I’m selling tires and rims, if I’m doing adjustments, if I’m putting in ball bearings, I’m loving it because my business is booming,” he said. “What the hell is the Department of Transportation doing? Why aren’t they removing asphalt and paving one of the most vital tributaries in the borough of Queens and the city of New York?”
He even ripped the city for allowing sidewalk garbage cans to overflow at times throughout southwest Queens.
“When they store garbage in your neighborhood, they are telling you that you are garbage,” Sliwa added, talking about the area’s elected officials. “They’re sending a message to all of you.”
He also took a shot at the city over the aesthetic appearance of Willets Point, saying New York Mets fans streaming into Citi Field shouldn’t have to think their team plays in a third world country.
“Every street in Willets Point looks worse than Kabul, Afghanistan,” he said. “I may not like the Mets, but you deserve paved roads around the National League champion’s stadium.”
When it comes to actually campaigning against Katz, Sliwa admitted to the Chronicle that he hasn’t thought enough about what impact, if any, such a race would have on their two elementary school-aged sons.
But he said it wouldn’t stop him from campaigning hard against the woman who broke up with him in November 2014, as he plans to “pull no punches.”
“To be honest with you, I haven’t given it as much thought as I should have,” he said when asked about his kids, “but I think because they’ve grown up in a political household with two high-profile parents who already slugged it out in the newspapers and family court, at some point they’ll read it all anyway. And I’ll be able to explain it if she lets me near them.”
When reached for comment on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Katz said in an email the borough president had no interest in publicly commenting on Sliwa.
“The borough president’s children are now old enough to read the papers and Google their parents’ names,” Sharon Lee said. “As such, the borough president will reserve any further comment on the father of her children at this time.”
Despite receiving an enthusiastic welcome and encouragement from the Juniper Park Civic Association and its influential president, Bob Holden, Queens College political science professor Michael Krasner said the twice-married Sliwa has “zero chance” to win a political race that will likely resemble a “soap opera.”
“I would bet my whole next year’s salary on her unless she gets caught in an egregious act of child abuse in Macy’s or something,” Krasner said in a Monday phone interview. “I can’t imagine her losing. She’s such a good politician and she knows how to play the game.”
When asked if Sliwa’s platform of tackling corruption could earn him enough votes to be a threat, Krasner said it was highly doubtful, as the relatively popular Katz is on track to handily win a second term as borough president.
“Even a serious challenger on the Democratic side, where we all know the real competition is, would be running very much uphill against Melinda,” he said. “I’m sure she’ll outraise anyone that comes along, including Curtis.”
In order to become borough president, Sliwa must move from Brooklyn to Queens, something he said he was in the early stages of planning.
According to the New York City Charter, the Guardian Angels founder — who was shot multiple times during a 1992 kidnapping attempt by members of the Gambino crime family — must be a resident of Queens by Election Day and remain in the borough throughout the entirety of his term.
While former partners running against each other for public office appears to be a first in the borough’s history, according to Krasner, a few similar cases have grabbed headlines in other parts of the nation over the last few years.
In May 2012, Mark Schimel made national news by announcing he would run as a Republican against Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Nassau), his estranged wife of 32 years and the mother of his two children.
The Nassau County Republican Party nominated him to run against the incumbant, but he dropped out of the race a week later, citing the “sensationalizing” of the contest by the media had overshadowed the race itself.
Last year, Kim Faulker received considerable media attention when she declared she would run against incumbent Bremerton, Wash. city Councilman Ron Runyon — her husband of 12 years — saying the district needed a more qualified representative with a more steady-handed approach to the issues.
Both Runyon and Faulker were handily defeated in last August’s primary, while the former again lost in a landslide to the same opponent in November’s general election.