Conservative Party Nomination Preview

The Conservative Party is poised to select its mayoral candidate tomorrow.  Here’s a look at what’s likely to happen along with my prediction of the winning candidate.

The Conservative Party does not hold a primary, but instead selects its mayoral candidate through an internal process.  The five county leaders will meet tomorrow and, presumably, reach a consensus.  The state Conservative Party’s executive committee will then issue a Wilson-Pakula to the winner as none of the candidates are registered members of the Party.  The executive committee is expected to act on the decision of the five county leaders, without conducting its own further process on selecting a candidate.

Although the New York State Conservative Party has often backed the Republican candidate for governor, the New York City Conservative Party has rarely backed the Republican mayoral nominee.  Joe Lhota’s cross-endorsement in 2013 was the first such instance since 1985.  In addition to ideological differences, timing is also a factor in the possibility of separate candidates this year.  The Conservative Party is acting long before the Republican primary in this race, so even without the ideological gaps of the Giuliani and Bloomberg years there’s a fair chance that the parties end up with different candidates. That doesn’t appear to worry the Conservatives, who see themselves and their party as wholly independent, even leading the Republicans, rather than as following the Republicans’ lead.

Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis heads into tomorrow’s meeting as the favorite.  The Brooklyn Conservative Party has already endorsed Malliotakis and the Queens Conservative Party has informally decided to support her, although a Queens party vote won’t happen until Thursday.   Staten Island appears likely to go with their fellow Staten Islander.  Malliotakis has run on the Conservative line in all of her elections, she’s steadily engaged with the party and her Staten Island party screening last week has been described as having gone well.  When I spoke with Manhattan Conservative Party Chairman Stuart Avrick last week he said that he had not yet met Malliotakis and therefor had not yet settled on a candidate, but he seems more ideologically in tune with her than with Paul Massey.  (I don’t have any insight currently into the Bronx Conservative Party’s choice.)

With Michel Faulkner moving from the mayor’s race to the comptroller’s race, the Conservatives are seriously considering only Malliotakis and Paul Massey.  Bo Dietl appears to not have a realistic chance, with his Chirlane/Judge implosion and his Republican ballot woes smothering some initial appeal.  The party is not considering any other candidates.

Paul Massey has support within the party and has a realistic chance at the nomination.  His well-funded campaign is a plus, offering the prospect of a viable and visible presence through November.  While many Conservative Party members admire Massey’s business success, they have profound ideological differences with him on social issues, however.  Malliotakis is far more in sync on those issues and is well known within the party.  As outlined above, she appears likely to receive the Conservative Party nomination.

There is a single candidate seeking the Conservative Party nomination for each of the other two  citywide offices; Michel Faulkner is seeking the comptroller nomination and Mike O’Reilly is seeking the public advocate nomination.  Faulkner recently switched from the mayor’s race to the comptroller’s race.  O’Reilly is a past congressional candidate, running on the Republican and Conservative lines in a big 2016 loss to Gregory Meeks.  (It’s my understanding that J.C. Polanco, who told me last week he’s likely to seek the Republican nomination for public advocate, has not approached the Conservative Party about their line.)  It’s my impression that the Conservative Party will make its selection for these two offices tomorrow, but that’s not a certainty.

Stay with us for more as the Conservative Party selects its candidates.