He’s been dead more than 500 years, so there are some logistical issues, but Christopher Columbus has had a significant role in the 2017 mayoral race. He did not actually endorse Nicole Malliotakis for mayor, but his influence was felt in some endorsements that Malliotakis received from former New York State senator Serph Maltese and a group of Italian-American civic leaders Tuesday in Middle Village. In a twist Malliotakis, the only one of the four top mayoral candidates without any Italian ancestry, declared that “a vote for Columbus is a vote for Malliotakis.” (Bill de Blasio and Bo Dietl each have an Italian father and German mother, while Sal Albanese was born in Calabria and came to the U.S. at the age of 8.)
Mayor de Blasio’s refusal to oppose demands that statues of Christopher Columbus, especially the statue in Columbus Circle, be removed has energized significant opposition in New York’s Italian-American community, and that opposition was evident in these endorsements. Some of the endorsers said that there had been a small likelihood of supporting de Blasio, but that his failure to declare support for keeping the Columbus statue eliminated any possibility of supporting him.
The group of about a dozen endorsers are members of the Italian Cultural Association of New York, but Association Chairman Tony Di Piazza emphasized that they were endorsing Malliotakis individually and that the Association is not endorsing any candidate.