The Bo Show rolled into Howard Beach Saturday afternoon, adding some sizzle to Eric Ulrich’s reelection campaign fundraiser. Ulrich, who seriously pursued running for mayor before opting to run for a third and final term on the City Council, has endorsed Bo Dietl for mayor and Dietl returned the favor appearing at Ulrich’s fundraiser. Dietl encountered fellow mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis and Queens County Republican Chairman Bob Turner, an early and enthusiastic backer of mayoral candidate Paul Massey. Massey, who has been endorsed by Turner’s Queens County Republican organization, did not attend.
About 40 people came to Matteo’s restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard in support of Ulrich, with many appearing to be long time friends who spoke of long relationships with the candidate. Republican notables attending, in addition to Dietl, Malliotakis and Turner, included Rockaway Republican Club President Alan Zwirn, Conservative Party candidate for public advocate Michael O’Reilly and Republican operative John Haggerty (convicted of grand larceny in a 2009 scheme to purportedly provide poll watching services to Michael Bloomberg).
Ulrich spoke briefly, focused on thanking his supporters and looking ahead to another term. He offered some criticism of Mayor de Blasio, saying that he ignores Ulrich’s district and he seeks to represent only his supporters rather than everyone in the City, but Ulrich mostly spoke of his time in office. Ulrich noted that the mayor has been cordial to him, but proudly described himself as one of the few members of the City Council with the guts and courage to hold de Blasio accountable. He also said that, notwithstanding his serious consideration this year of running for mayor, that he had planned to serve two terms and then “go make a lot of money.” He declared that if he were to leave office now he doubted that a successor would provide sufficient checks and balances on the mayor.
Queens Republican Chairman Bob Turner described himself as “absolutely delighted” that Ulrich is running for a third term, noting that Ulrich is the only city or state Republican elected official for Queens. Turner said that he hopes to mount eight or nine “good campaigns” in the 14 Queens council districts, describing Ulrich as the “anchor” and the one district about which he’s “able to sleep comfortably.” Unmentioned as part of Turner’s “absolute delight” was that running for reelection means that Ulrich abandoned a nascent mayoral campaign against Turner’s preferred candidate, Paul Massey.
Bo Dietl provided the most sizzle in the afternoon, notwithstanding his declaration that “it’s all about Eric.” He began his visit with an awkward encounter with a departing Nicole Malliotakis as each greeted Ulrich. (Malliotakis, who arrived near the beginning of the fundraiser, worked the small number of early arrivals and spoke with us, but headed off before lunch and the speeches began.) He and Turner eventually intersected in the restaurant’s small bar. Overheard snippets of Dietl and Turner’s conversation, which was mostly Dietl talking and Turner listening, seemed to include Dietl’s defense of of his Chirlane/Judge comments and criticism of Paul Massey and Queens County’s endorsement. Dietl did manage to draw a few laughs from Turner, but not any apparent political support.
Dietl began his speech with a hug for Ulrich and a hometown pitch, noting that he grew up in nearby Ozone Park and offering neighborhood bona fides. Among those bona fides, his late uncle who was a local plumber and apparently the source of Dietl’s claim that his family had the first steam heat in Ozone Park. A mention of his own German and Italian heritage quickly brought him to his first criticism of de Blasio, in this case for changing his name and dropping his German surname. Dietl’s speech was, as always, a virtually non-stop stream of pro-Bo and anti-de Blasio sentiments. Like a burst transmission of radio waves his entreaties shot out en masse, with Dietl pulsing with energy as he quickly accelerated to top take-de Blasio-out speed.
Policy criticisms of de Blasio included a claim that, notwithstanding City statistics, crime is increasing and the City growing more dangerous. Among his claimed bases for that claim; his son being robbed in Manhattan in 2016 yet not reporting it to the police and Dietl’s assertion that school safety officers dispose of seized weapons and drugs without reporting such seizures. Like his fellow mayoral challengers he faces a challenge in convincing voters to dispatch de Blasio as the City grows ever-safer and he joins his fellow challengers in arguing that an increased sense of “fear is a crime.” Dietl also criticized the mayor for supporting the closure of Rikers Island, adding that de Blasio has not read the Lippman Report.
Dietl had plenty of personal criticisms of de Blasio, centered around characterizing him as lazy and corrupt. He described de Blasio as locking himself away in Gracie Mansion where “he smokes his pot with his wife there, tolking it,” attributing his knowledge to “friends on the NYPD,” and urging de Blasio to head to Havana or Nicaragua . He did not, however, repeat his past offer to purchase de Blasio a ticket.
Dietl cast de Blasio as willing to act only for campaign contributors or other financial supporters, saying “whenever you give him money you’ll get things done.” He recounted his own ballot challenges and his ongoing lawsuit seeking access to the primary and derided the Daily News’ coverage of a prior tax delinquency that Dietl is paying off. His audience laughed with Dietl as he described himself as thinking he was indicted for something when he first saw the Daily News front page featuring his photo on Easter Sunday, but they seemed quite familiar with the episode.
“Are they really fighters? Can they get into the cage with this guy and rip him out the way he’s gotta be ripped out?” he asked. Unsurprisingly his answer was no, dismissing Paul Massey and Nicole Malliotakis as incapable of effectively challenging de Blasio and saying “my friend Massey’s a nice man from Westchester and the lady from Staten Island, she’s a nice lady.” (He also later referenced “my friend from upstate New York, de Massey.”)
He closed with a thank you to Ulrich for standing by him through the furor over his Chirlane/Judge comments and declaring that he’s determined to stay in the race through November, although he offered that he wished Ulrich was instead running for mayor.
His audience was attentive and receptive, applauding as he concluded, but it’s hard to judge if they would actually show up to vote for him.
Video – Speeches given by Eric Ulrich, Bo Dietl and Bob Turner:
Our photo gallery is available here.