While the country gets daily news updates on the consequences of last Election Day via Donald Trump’s Twitter, New Yorkers will go to the polls next Election Day for the mayoral election. And while De Blasio faces federal inquiries on the path to reelection, the Columbia University College Republicans hosted the Republican Mayoral Debate on Thursday, featuring the three announced candidates for the Republican primary September and one councilman who hasn’t made his mind yet and was invited. Since everyone just survived midterms, Guest Writer Ufon Umanah provides a recap.
The first candidate to speak was Darren Dione Aquino, who introduced himself as an advocate for the disabled through Advocates for Disabled Americans, Veterans, Police, & Firemen, of which he is CEO. He also played a disabled police officer on Law and Order SVU, though he emphasized that the role was not explicitly for a disabled police officer, he was simply a disabled actor. He also has dyslexia, for which he was given an accommodation for the debate. (It might seem weird to point this out, but this is how he introduces himself.)
Next was Michel Faulkner, an African-American Republican who after playing for the Jets went into academia. He boasts that he traded that academic life to help the crime-ridden community in 1980’s Times Square. (Of course, he could have had both if he taught at Columbia.) There he served as a reverend in a small ministry and did community service before starting his political career losing in a landslide to Charlie Rangel.
Paul Massey was the last of the announced candidates. A real estate developer who has forgo public fundraising for private donations and possibly his own money, Massey could draw comparisons to Trump, except that he’s not orange and not itchy with a Twitter handle. He certainly played the entrepreneur angle during his introduction.
Following Massey was Eric Ulrich, a local councilman representing District 32 in Queens as a Republican, a feat perhaps impressive in and of itself. He isn’t officially in the race yet, and hasn’t been on the campaign trail as much as his rivals. He was recently tapped for a reality TV series by the same people behind The Circus.
Now, being the Republican debate, common themes abounded, especially from four people who reportedly are on good terms despite being campaign rivals: there are too many taxes and regulations, crime is killing our communities, current mayor Bill de Blasio is always late to his corruption meetings. But that isn’t to say there wasn’t some contention during the debate.
The second question of the night was on stop and frisk, or as many called it, stop, question and frisk. This is a controversial police tactic that has been highly criticized for targeting communities of color in New York City. The way in which the NYPD practiced stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional by a local judge in 2013, though the practice itself was not. While the NYPD got unanimous verbal support from the candidates on stage, the stage had mixed views on the policy. Massey asserted that “police is not a race issue,” and that stop and frisk was an important tool. Ulrich voted for the practice as councilman, but admitted on stage that there wasn’t a massive increase in crime since the ruling, which in his opinion could imply that its use was excessive and the NYPD could benefit from training. Following Ulrich, Aquino said, “It doesn’t work and it didn’t work.” He said he had talked to many retired detectives who say as much. Faulkner admitted there was some unfortunate outcomes like violation of rights and racial bias, but if the community were involved, stop and frisk could work.
The other major division point was on Trump’s executive order and immigration. The uniting theme across all candidates was that we are a nation and a city of immigrants and of laws. Aquino spoke of wanting to help those contributing to the community, but pivoted to helping those at home first (though helping homeless veterans is a very worthy cause). Faulkner thought it impossible for the federal government to want to deport everyone, and talked about securing the border. Massey accused De Blasio of flaming the situation and dividing the community even more. But Ulrich came out saying he was appalled by the travel bans, which to him was the same discrimination Catholics and Jews had faced in the past, and called on Congress to pass the comprehensive immigration reform they were on the verge of passing years ago. In a half-filled Low Library, this drew some of the biggest applause of the night.
Photo via CUCR’s Facebook page