Republican mayoral candidates Nicole Malliotakis and Paul Massey crossed paths at the Queens Republican Party’s Spring Dinner, working the crowd separately and each speaking during dinner Wednesday night. In a bit of fortuitous timing Massey walked into the dinner as Malliotakis explained her late entry into the race as motivated by the fact that “I haven’t seen the passion, I haven’t seen the energy” from the other candidates. That was as close as they came to any direct debate or confrontation, however.
Malliotakis arrived early, worked the crowd through the entire cocktail hour, spoke immediately after the crowd was seated for dinner and then left. (We later learned that she had a screening interview with the Queens Conservative Party.) Massey arrived as dinner began, but stayed through the rest of the fairly lengthy evening, working the dinner crowd between courses. Other speakers included Michel Faulkner, a former mayoral candidate now running for comptroller, Harry Wilson, a past New York State comptroller candidate who is gearing up to run for governor, and Council Member Eric Ulrich. Attendees also included Bronx Republican Chairman Mike Rendino and J.C. Polanco, a likely candidate for public advocate.
The Queens County Republican Party has endorsed Massey, but it was still a worthwhile effort by Malliotakis. While the endorsement was certainly a victory for Massey, providing him with some positive publicity, Republican clubs and individual party members are free to go their own way in voting, endorsing, contributing money and, most immediately, carrying petitions. As one of the few elected Republicans in the City, Malliotakis has a significant amount of support and goodwill among Queens Republicans.
In her fairly brief speech, Malliotakis cast herself as a reformer who has taken aggressive stances during her six years in the Assembly. Among the instances she cited were her early call for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s resignation, opposition to MTA toll hikes on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and increasing the MTA’s debt and suing the Port Authority. As a member of an essentially powerless minority in the Assembly Malliotakis has little significant legislation and, as a practical matter, needs to offer other accomplishments to voters. Malliotakis was critical of Mayor de Blasio, but was rather restrained in that criticism. Saying that the City is in a difficult time, she offered that the mayor is not doing a good job in the face of increased homelessness, an increase in rape and other sex crimes and a large increase in the City’s budget but abstained from harsh or personal attacks. Malliotakis also had little to say about her main opponent, Paul Massey. She never said his name and made only one allusion to him. Malliotakis said that her late entry into the race was motivated by shortcomings of the other candidates (who included Michel Faulkner at the time she began her candidacy), saying “I haven’t seen the passion, I haven’t seen the energy” from those candidates. Coincidentally, as she uttered those words Massey arrived and sat just a few feet away.
Having already received the Queens County endorsement his appearance was, at least in part, a victory lap for Paul Massey. He’s not that well known, however, and he needs to both introduce himself and convince the party faithful to support him.
Massey spoke toward the end of the dinner, beginning with an awkward joke referencing his end-of-the-dinner slot. He graciously acknowledged both former rival Michel Faulkner and current rival Nicole Malliotakis, saying that “I admire the work and public service” of Malliotakis. He also acknowledged Council Member Eric Ulrich, the only Queens Republican holding city or state office, saying that he’s “very grateful for everything you’ve done” despite Ulrich having recently endorsed Bo Dietl for mayor.
Massey offered a series of harsh attacks on Mayor de Blasio, calling him lazy, corrupt and divisive. Declaring that there is a “crisis of leadership in this City” Massey accused de Blasio of employing “dangerous rhetoric” with the goal of fueling acrimony between “rich against poor, black against white.” He used a frequent refrain, saying that “I believe all of you live in New York City because you embrace diversity.” It’s a line that feels out of place for the Republican candidate, not because there’s racial or ethnic hostility apparent in the audience but because it’s the sort of line that often produces dismissals as “political correctness” from such audiences.
Massey’s bumpiest moment came courtesy of a heckler, as a man yelled out “you didn’t pay your taxes for three years, you’re a phony, you’re a drunk.” Massey hesitated for an instant, but then continued as other audience members shushed the heckler. (Massey was $4 million in arrears on his federal taxes for several years and was arrested in 2010 on a charge of driving while intoxicated.)
Massey then briefly presented a list of issues, from homelessness, the “housing crisis”, the condition of City schools, that he says he’ll address. While he did reference his real estate experience and his broader business experience as preparing him to address many City issues Massey did not spend much time describing his own background or experiences. He ended with a shift to broad aspirations, declaring that “[w]e need to post up some big audacious goals and drive the City forward.” He did not offer any, however, closing with a call to “take back this City from failed managers and failed leaders.”
Here are the full speeches of Malliotakis, Massey and Ulrich.
Update – Photo Gallery: