Gotham Gazette Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:17:20 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Who will be at the second mayoral debate? nyc votes errol and audience

Debate #1 (photo: @NYCVotes)

By most accounts, the first general election mayoral debate was at best minimally helpful in providing voters a substantive exchange of ideas among the three candidates on stage, each competing to lead the city of 8.5 million people and an $85 billion budget for the next four years.

Outbursts and interruptions by audience members and candidate Bo Dietl made for a raucous and rowdy atmosphere where the policy positions of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat seeking reelection, and Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee, were often drowned out, overshadowed, or truncated.

“It was a bit of a circus,” said debate panelist and WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer, “the crowd was rowdy, the mayor’s opponents aggressive.”

Still, there was some intelligence gleaned from the debate, both in terms of the personalities of the candidates and their policy positions. A good deal of substance was present if you were able to listen closely enough or catch the debate a second time, perhaps desensitized to the lack of decorum shown by Dietl and the crowd, where most of those interfering with the discussion on stage were anti-de Blasio -- either Dietl or Malliotakis supporters or there simply to jeer the mayor.

The three candidates -- seven names will be on the November mayoral ballot, but just these three qualified for the first of two official, televised debates -- did have opportunities to discuss issues like affordable housing, criminal justice, homelessness, the city budget, mass transit funding, street congestion, school segregation, and more.

In the aftermath of a debate that left many, including, apparently, moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis, exasperated and frustrated, one important question is who will be on stage for the second official debate, scheduled for Wednesday, November 1 at 7 p.m., televised on CBS.

In order to qualify for that contest, known by campaign finance law as the “leading contenders” debate, one of two sets of criteria will be at play. One is simply a fundraising and spending threshold of $1 million each. The other has a much lower financial threshold ($174,225) and includes candidates attaining at least 15% in a public opinion poll that includes all of the candidates on the ballot (there are a few other minor details to it, but those are the broad strokes).

In all likelihood, the first criteria will be used to determine eligibility, which will almost-certainly again limit the field to de Blasio, Malliotakis, and Dietl. However, because Dietl is not a participant in the Campaign Finance Board public matching program, rules state that the lead sponsor, in this case CBS, has discretion whether to invite him or not. Dietl’s inclusion, or lack thereof, would have significant impact on the debate, if not the outcome of the vote on November 7.

Neither Dietl nor Malliotakis has hit the $1 million raise and spend thresholds yet, though both are fairly close, and they have until October 27 to do so. Dietl told Gotham Gazette it will not be a problem, in part because he has deep personal resources to help his campaign if needed. Reached for comment about whether CBS plans to invite Dietl, a spokesperson said the station would not weigh in on a hypothetical.

"I think they're going to invite me,” Dietl told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday. “I don't think there's too much of a debate without me. There's no entertainment value, I bring out the real facts. CBS knows that, they'll invite me."

Asked if he felt OK with how he had handled himself at the first debate -- during which he spoke almost exclusively in a yell, grunted into his microphone repeatedly, interrupted, and had his mic cut off by Louis -- Dietl indicated no regrets.

“My passion showed,” he said on Wednesday. “I feel great. I thought last night went well. A little out of control…You had to get in to say what you want to say.”

"It’s important for people to see human beings,” Dietl said, “rather than robot politicians. I got a lot of my points out. A lot of people saw Bo could be mayor of New York City against a couple of politicians."

Dietl’s presence at the first debate -- and his potential presence at the second -- hurts Malliotakis’ chances of consolidating the anti-de Blasio vote and narrowing the 40-plus-point gap in the polls. While Dietl argues he has the better chance of the two to defeat de Blasio, Malliotakis appears a more cogent candidate and has her own lead on Dietl in polling.

Asked about the debate and Dietl’s presence at a Wednesday press conference in the Bronx, Malliotakis said, “Certainly I would prefer a one-on-one debate with the mayor. I believe that I am the clear alternative to Bill de Blasio being offered in November. I would love the opportunity to debate him one-on-one, and we’ll see, maybe November 1 -- I intend to make the threshold to qualify for the CBS debate, and we’ll see what happens there.”

She said one-on-one with de Blasio would let her better make her case and allow the candidates to drill down on the issues more. “I’m very pleased with the way the debate went,” she added, saying she thought she made many of her key points and held the mayor accountable.

Along with Dietl’s presence, or that of other mayoral candidates who are suing to get on stage, the other key question about the second debate is the live audience. The crowd at Symphony Space acted more like it was an NFL game than a political debate, leading to at least one ejection and several admonishments from Louis, the moderator.

The venue for the second debate is the smaller CUNY Graduate Center auditorium, and it is not yet clear how CBS and its co-sponsors will handle ticket dissemination. They may filter tickets through sponsor organizations, as well as CUNY faculty and students, and not through the candidate campaigns.

“[W]e are reviewing what happened last night and will do what we can to keep the focus of the Nov. 1 debate on the candidates,” the CBS New York spokesperson, Rachel Ferguson, told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday.

When asked for comment on the debate, the Campaign Finance Board gave credit to Louis and his fellow questioners and pointed to crowd behavior.

“A lot of interested voters showed up at last night’s debate determined to make their voices heard,” said Amy Loprest, Executive Director of the NYC Campaign Finance Board, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “While it is regrettable that the crowd reduced the amount of time available for questions, the debate moderator and panelists did their very best to ensure the candidates addressed a wide range of issues that directly affect New Yorkers. The [Campaign Finance] Act requires these debates so that all voters can hear directly from the candidates about the issues that matter to them. As a result, the New Yorkers who tuned in to last night’s debate are better equipped to cast an informed ballot for the city they want on November 7th.”

Asked about the debate at an unrelated Thursday press conference, de Blasio expressed his own dismay, but did not offer any specific prescriptions. “It was not what the people of New York City deserved,” de Blasio said. “It was a lost opportunity.”

While the mayor’s supporters often cheered his answers and chanted “four more years” to drown out boos or jeers from others in the crowd, they appeared to take the approach more reactively, responding to the tone set early on by de Blasio detractors who interrupted the mayor’s opening statement and repeatedly heckled during his answers to questions.

Asked about whether Dietl should be invited to the second debate, a spokesperson for the mayor’s campaign, Dan Levitan, said in a statement, "Under Mayor de Blasio crime is at record lows, jobs are at record highs, and New York City is building affordable housing at a record pace. We are happy for any opportunity to talk about the Mayor’s record and we look forward to debating whoever the CFB and debate sponsors decide to include.”

Another candidate, Michael Tolkin, has repeatedly met financial thresholds by giving his own campaign money and has not been invited to debate, either in the Democratic primary, where he came in a distant third to de Blasio and Sal Albanese, or in the general, where he is running on his self-created Smart Cities ballot line.

Albanese, too, is running again in the general, on the Reform Party line. He came in a distant second to de Blasio in the primary, but showed fairly well, at about 15%, given the substantial disadvantages he faced. Despite limited financial resources (Albanese barely qualified for the two primary debates where he faced de Blasio one-on-one), Albanese did poll better than Dietl in one recent general election survey, leading to cries of injustice from Albanese about his exclusion from the debate.

Both Albanese and Tolkin are suing to be included in the debate. Therefore, there’s a chance that the second debate, on CBS, could include up to five candidates.

The other two candidates who will be on the November ballot are Akeem Browder of the Green Party and Libertarian candidate Aaron Commey.

As for Dietl, he said he thinks the debate gave new life to his campaign, citing his performance, the overall response, and media interest the day after. Calling the debate “a real turning point,” Dietl said, "let's wait and see what the next poll says. I think you'll be surprised."

For her part, Malliotakis also said Wednesday that she believes the race is closer than the polls from Marist College and Quinnipiac University show, citing her campaign’s internal polling and the response she gets all over the city. “This is a race,” she said.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Who will be at the second mayoral debate? Thu, 12 Oct 2017 20:43:24 +0000
Debate Showcases Sharp Differences Among Mayoral Candidates on Transit, Congestion de Blasio subway

De Blasio on the subway (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

The first general election mayoral debate, held Tuesday, was often devoid of substance amid repeated interruptions of a restive audience and candidates who seemed more interested in scoring political points than talking policy. Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly retreated to stump speech talking points as his opponents, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and retired NYPD detective Bo Dietl, attacked him over and over again. Malliotakis offered up a few policy proposals while Dietl largely blustered and ranted through his time, at times overshadowing any policy ideas he was putting forth.

On the issues of mass transit and street congestion, however, none of the candidates, including de Blasio, seemed to have immediate solutions for the city’s problems with its deteriorating subways and clogged roadways.

Earlier this year, de Blasio faced ample criticism for a seemingly lax attitude over problems in the subway system, which cascaded into a full-blown crisis this summer with repeated train breakdowns, derailments, and unrelenting delays. He was dragged by transit activists and political opponents to ride the subways more and to use his bully pulpit to advocate for increased funding and immediate action by the state, which controls the MTA and bears most responsibility for the subways.

After MTA Chair Joe Lhota put forth an emergency subway action plan and asked the city and state to split the $836 million price tag, Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed and de Blasio balked, saying the city should not be on the hook for any more funds and insisting that the state repay money it had raided from the MTA -- ironically, the same $456 million figure now being asked of the city.

De Blasio pitched a millionaire’s tax proposal to fund MTA repairs as well as subsidized fares for low-income New Yorkers, addressing another area of significant criticism, his unwillingness to fund the “Fair Fares” campaign. His proposal was immediately panned as having little hope for passage in Albany and as lacking immediacy. The mayor pointed back to the state, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

At Tuesday’s debate, both Malliotakis and Dietl agreed that the city bears significant responsibility for the MTA, where the mayor has four of 14 board appointees, and should contribute its fair share.

“If my kids are riding on a school bus and the school bus needs brakes and I have the money to fix that, I’m gonna fix it,” responded Dietl, to a question from debate panellist Gloria Pazmino, a Politico New York reporter, about whether the candidates would fund half the MTA emergency action plan and support a potential congestion pricing proposal. “This mayor over here says it’s not his responsibility. He’s the mayor of New York, it is his responsibility,” Dietl added, shouting. Dietl veered into incomprehension before seeming to say that regarding congestion, the de Blasio administration’s issuance of thousands of parking placards to “flunkies” is a major factor in the problem.

“I absolutely do believe that the city has a responsibility, the mayor has a responsibility to make sure that his constituents can get to and from work,” said a more measured Malliotakis. She emphasized the role the mayor’s appointees to the MTA board could play, in seeking more capital investment from the state for necessary infrastructure upgrades. And she vowed to work with the governor to solve the crisis, before snarkily turning to de Blasio and challenging him, “Are you afraid of Governor Cuomo?”

Although, Malliotakis did not directly answer either part of the question -- whether she would agree to fund half of the MTA emergency plan and whether she favors a congestion pricing scheme -- she has publicly said before that the city could use funds set aside in reserves for the MTA emergency action plan. "On congestion pricing she has said she likes the Sam Schwartz plan but, remains open minded regarding other plans,” campaign spokesperson Rob Ryan clarified in an email on Wednesday. Schwartz is a renowned traffic engineer and the proposal Ryan referenced is Move New York, which involves reducing tolls at bridges with less traffic and increasing them in higher traffic areas, variable pricing for peak and off-peak hours, and adding tolls to the East River bridges, among other ideas. It is a popular plan aimed at both fighting congestion and raising revenue to create a city with improved mass transit and better flowing roads. 

Malliotakis has also supported converting all traffic signals into Smart Lights that use sensors and artificial intelligence to control the flow of traffic and reduce congestion, while also preventing accidents and cutting down on vehicle emissions. The assemblymember's plan would prioritize communities with high vehicle ownership in Queens and Staten Island, and envisions a total cost of about $1 billion to replace every traffic light in the city.   

De Blasio does not support the Move New York plan, and has called congestion pricing a “regressive tax,” instead proposing his own tax on wealthy New Yorkers. “The solution is a millionaires tax...Millionaires and billionaires can pay a little more in this city so the rest of us can get around,” he said at the debate.

The mayor did not acknowledge the existence of the Move New York plan, instead appearing to again reference the fact that Cuomo -- who has said it is time to reconsider congestion pricing and is expected to unveil his own proposal in January -- has not yet outlined his own proposal.

De Blasio repeated his assertion that the state should bear the costs of MTA fixes, pointing out as he has done before that the state diverted about $456 million in city money away from the transit authority. “That was earmarked money for the MTA that the governor and the Legislature diverted away from the MTA that would be right now available,” he said. “It is right now available in state surplus to address the problems of the MTA. By the way, the Assembly member voted to divert those funds away.”

What de Blasio did not fully acknowledge, even when pushed by Pazmino, was the timeline for his proposed millionaire’s tax. The tax must be approved by the state Legislature, which will not meet until next year, and there is already opposition to it, particularly from Republicans who control the state Senate. “The millionaires tax is very, very popular,” de Blasio insisted, pointing to support in a recent public poll. “If Governor Cuomo would support it and put the energy you’ve seen put into some other things, it could be achieved in Albany. We don’t have an alternative plan right now.”

De Blasio offered no plans or ideas for reducing street congestion.

Malliotakis rebutted the mayor, insisting that she had supported lockbox legislation to preserve the MTA’s budget, and she was quick to pounce on the mayor’s omission of a plan to address current needs. The millionaire’s tax is a “cockamamie plan,” she said.

“It’s an emergency plan,” she said of the MTA’s current strategy. “It needs to be done now.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Note - This article has been updated.

Debate Showcases Sharp Differences Among Mayoral Candidates on Transit, Congestion Wed, 11 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette

October 11, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate

debate stage277The morning after the first mayoral debate of the general election -- featuring candidates Bill de Blasio, Nicole Malliotakis, and Bo Dietl -- Max & Murphy discuss how each candidate performed, the issues discussed, answers, non-answers, strategy, and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy. You can hear the episode through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate Wed, 11 Oct 2017 04:00:23 +0000
De Blasio, Malliotakis & Dietl Engage in Raucous Mayoral Debate general election debate

the first general election mayoral debate (photo: @NYCVotes)

The first mayoral debate of the general election verged on the brink of chaos for the better part of 90 minutes as Mayor Bill de Blasio faced challengers Nicole Malliotakis and Bo Dietl in front of a raucous, disruptive audience at the Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Tuesday.

While attacks flew throughout the night, largely from Malliotakis and Dietl toward de Blasio, on more substantive matters, the debate was largely a two-person contest, between de Blasio and Malliotakis, a sitting Republican state Assembly member. Dietl, a former NYPD detective running on his own party line, largely shouted during his opportunities to speak, while also grunting into his microphone and regularly interrupting others. Within minutes of the start of the debate, the audience -- which appeared to include groups of supporters of each of the three candidates -- howled and heckled, drowning out the candidates and drawing sharp rebukes from debate moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis.

Throughout much of the debate, substantive policy discussion took a back seat to yelling and interrupting, whether by Dietl and Malliotakis or their supporters in the crowd. With varying degrees of success, the challengers took turns lambasting de Blasio, the progressive Democratic incumbent, who defended his policies and his first-term record while criticizing both his opponents as “right-wing Republicans” who voted for President Donald Trump.

Malliotakis fared far better in both critiquing and responding to de Blasio, offering certain policy alternatives and pointed criticisms of his administration. On the other hand, Dietl struggled to articulate cogent responses to specific policy questions and veered off into tangential arguments and ad hominem attacks. At one point he had his microphone cut-off by the debate moderator for repeatedly interrupting.

As she has been on the campaign trail for months, Malliotakis offered sharp attacks on de Blasio over his leadership, budgeting, stewardship of the school system, and more. “We have so many issues that are plaguing our city,” she said at one point, arguing that with record-high spending, de Blasio is not showing enough results.

De Blasio stuck to his regular campaign arguments about his accomplishments, including universal pre-kindergarten, falling crime, efforts to prevent evictions, rising graduation rates, and more.

The candidates faced questions on the city’s homelessness crisis, income inequality, budgeting and fiscal responsibility, the MTA, Rikers Island, public safety, school segregation, and dealing with real estate developers to grow affordable housing.

As expected, Dietl’s and Malliotakis’ positions hewed close to each other, with de Blasio playing the foil. Both challengers critiqued the decriminalization of low-level “quality-of-life” offenses such as public urination; they were both in favor of modernizing Rikers Island jails rather than shutting them down; they both called for more fiscal restraint in city budgeting; and they both supported dedicating more city funds to fix mass transit problems. Neither of them offered a viable affordable housing plan or a strategy for desegregating city schools. And both distanced themselves from Donald Trump, while embracing certain aspects of the Trump aesthetic.

When asked what they would do differently on tackling homelessness, both Malliotakis and Dietl attacked de Blasio for what is possibly his most prominent failing. Malliotakis insisted the city needs to invest more in vocational training and in supportive housing, and also critiqued the mayor for inadequate services for mentally ill New Yorkers, especially those with the most severe illnesses. De Blasio has “turned homelessness into a business,” she said, noting the city’s use of emergency hotel shelters and the plan to open 90 new homeless shelters. “This mayor’s done nothing for the homeless and I wanna do something,” said Dietl, briefly floating the idea of creating “homeless centers” on Ward’s Island and Randall’s Island without elaborating what those would entail.

De Blasio pointed out that his administration is aiming to reduce the shelter footprint by stopping the use of hotels and cluster sites as new shelters are built. He pointed to the city’s targeted outreach efforts to aid homeless people, the comprehensive ThriveNYC mental health program, and the investment in legal aid for tenants in housing court to help them avoid evictions. “These are the kinds of things that are necessary to ultimately fight and win the battle over homelessness,” he said, conceding that it will be a long, tough battle again a problem growing over decades.

On de Blasio’s core campaign agenda of tackling income inequality, both Malliotakis and Dietl said he has failed. She said the real “tale of two cities,” coopting de Blasio’s 2013 campaign line, was that the mayor’s friends and donors have benefited in the last four years while the city has suffered. Dietl echoed the argument.

De Blasio, in response, touted universal pre-kindergarten among the successful measures that will have helped 281,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by the end of the year. He also mentioned 3-K for all, his plan to extend preschool to three-year-olds over the next several years.

The mayor also faced criticism for the large increase in the city’s budget under his watch, though he defended himself by pointing out that the city has settled 99 percent of municipal labor contracts, all of which were expired when he took office, and put away a historic amount of funding in reserves. Major investments, such as hiring 2,000 new police officers and thousands of pre-K teachers, had added to the budget but were necessary for improving the city, he said. Malliotakis, a conservative, vowed to bring spending under control and said she would, among other things, cut from the hundreds of special assistants that de Blasio has hired at City Hall. She has not offered other areas of the $85 billion budget she would cut, however.

Dietl, meanwhile, found himself defending his own financial acuity, having had a history of unpaid taxes that made headlines earlier this year. In responding, Dietl said he has addressed the back taxes and is moving along with a payment plan. He explained he has been successful in private business and said he made $1.8 million last year.

All three were asked whether they would support closing Rikers jails or keeping it open. The mayor has supported a somewhat vague plan to shut down the problem-ridden jail complex in ten years, a solution contingent on continually reducing crime in the city and creating four borough-based jail facilities, although he has yet to lay out further details.

“Rikers Island, a jail on an island, that makes sense,” said Dietl, adding that “we’ve gotta fix what we’ve got.” Dietl favors reforming Rikers and investing heavily in rehabilitating inmates. Malliotakis, similarly, insists the city needs to retrofit the buildings and make them more humane and safer for both inmates and corrections officers. The mayor’s plan for borough-based jails, she said, would be “heavily rejected” by neighborhoods.

“I actually think that people of this city are much more willing to take on these tough choices,” de Blasio retorted, citing the fact that several Queens City Council members recently expressed support for reopening a detention facility near the courthouse in that borough.

De Blasio was asked a particularly pointed question about school segregation, particularly why he hasn’t moved more aggressively to integrate schools over arguing that his programs improve opportunities for all students whatever school they may attend. The mayor insisted on Tuesday that it’s a problem rooted in larger societal inequality and long history, and pitched an all-round “rising tide” approach through his Equity and Excellence program. He also said there is progress being made as individual school districts approach rezonings to desegregate schools.

Malliotakis, who earlier criticized the high percentage of high school graduates who require remedial courses for college readiness, said the Department of Education needs a complete overhaul. She was particularly critical of the DOE’s contracting processes and costly construction projects. Dietl said he would ban cell phones from classes and use a CompStat-like approach -- based on the NYPD’s crime statistics tracking system -- to target underperforming schools.

Since Malliotakis jumped into the mayoral race, de Blasio has sought to tie her to President Trump, while Dietl’s connections and resemblance to the offensive and irreverent President are all too obvious. On Tuesday, however, Dietl insisted that he is no right-wing Republican. “I’m a registered Democrat and I do not like Donald Trump and I do not like what he’s done…so I take exception to that,” he said of de Blasio’s remarks, but added that he did indeed vote for Trump last November.

Malliotakis, who also voted for Trump and has opposed certain policies of the president while supporting others, had a sharp retort about her stance toward the president. She told de Blasio her approach to the president was the same as the mayor’s to Governor Andrew Cuomo, his fellow Democrat. “When I disagree with President Trump, I’m going to say so,” she said, admitting that there are other times that she agrees with him.

Due to candidates talking over one another and the rowdy crowd -- at one point Louis had an audience member removed by security -- the debate was ended without closing statements.

Four other mayoral candidate who will be on the November ballot were not at the debate: Sal Albanese, of the Reform Party; Mike Tolkin, running on his Smart Cities ballot line; Green Party nominee Akeem Browder; and Libertarian nominee Aaron Commey.

The second “leading contenders” debate is scheduled for November 1 and it remains to be seen if Dietl -- who is not automatically included in the debate since he is not a participant in the CFB’s public matching funds program -- will be invited by the debate sponsors. For Malliotakis, there might be an opportunity to go head-to-head with de Blasio less than one week before voters go to the polls on November 7.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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De Blasio, Malliotakis & Dietl Engage in Raucous Mayoral Debate Tue, 10 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
5 Things to Watch at The First General Election Mayoral Debate de blasio stage

(Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

Get the popcorn. There’s a general election debate in the race for Mayor of New York City on Tuesday night. It promises to be a spirited affair with competing ideas, styles, and personalities among the three candidates participating.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and two of his six challengers -- Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl -- will debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday, the first of two such televised contests between now and Election Day, November 7. The debate will be aired on NY1 television and WNYC radio.

Recent polling shows that Malliotakis and Dietl face an especially uphill battle and need to make a splash. It’s likely that they are competing for much of the same base of support, and each seems to be keeping the other from narrowing the wide gap with de Blasio. Tuesday night will offer an opportunity for Malliotakis and Dietl to introduce themselves to more voters, critique the sitting mayor, and showcase their message for why they should replace de Blasio atop city government. As each indicated in an interview with Gotham Gazette, a goal for the debate is to give the sense that it is really a race between him- or her-self and de Blasio.

It promises to be a lively debate among three candidates who do not shy away from an argument and who have different ideas for the direction the city should go.

While Malliotakis and Dietl have both been far more active on the candidate forum circuit than de Blasio has, the mayor did have two televised primary election debates against Sal Albanese to help prepare for the general election events. In the debates against Albanese, de Blasio handled himself fairly well, on the way to winning nearly 75% of the vote, though he often sparred with his challenger, rarely allowing an attack to go by that he did not feel the need to respond to.

Albanese is among those who will be on the general election ballot but not able to debate Tuesday, having fallen short of the requirements, including a fundraising and spending threshold of $500,000 in both directions. Albanese has sued to get on the debate stage, but the outcome of the litigation is not yet clear. He actually registered better than Dietl in one of two recent polls of the mayoral race.

Another of de Blasio’s Democratic primary opponents who is also on the general election ballot, Michael Tolkin, met the financial requirements, but because he is not a participant in the Campaign Finance Board matching program, his debate participation was left up to the sponsors, and lead sponsor NY1 declined to invite him.

The other two candidates who will be on the November ballot are Green Party nominee Akeem Browder and Libertarian nominee Aaron Commey. Neither has raised much money or had a significant campaign presence.

Tuesday will mark exactly four weeks until Election Day and the first debate will give voters plenty to think about. Here are five things to watch:

1. Is Nicole Malliotakis ready for prime time?
On the biggest stage of her career, can Nicole Malliotakis deliver? Will she be able to sharply articulate both her critiques of de Blasio and her vision for leading the city? Can she describe problems with the city that resonate with the voters who matter most to her chances at building a winning coalition, especially moderate Democrats and those unaffiliated with a party? Can she spark a new media narrative and several days of positive coverage about her performance?

“A lot of people will be meeting me for the first time when they turn on that television,” Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette on Monday morning. “I’ve been all over the five boroughs, and getting a great reception, but polls show a lot of people don’t know me. It’s an opportunity for me to introduce myself to those individuals for the first time.”

“We’ve spent quite a few hours doing debate prep,” Malliotakis said, though she provided few specifics beyond saying that she has been “studying issues” and de Blasio’s primary debates versus Albanese. She’s done mock debating, she said, but wouldn’t get into details in terms of who was playing the mayor or Dietl. “We’ve been spending time discussing various topics that may come up,” she said, “and solidifying answers - basic debate prep.”

“The other goal is to make it clear this is a race between Bill de Blasio and I,” Malliotakis added, in apparent reference to Dietl, of whom, when asked, she said, “He’s just there. I don’t believe that Bo has offered anything. I don’t even know why Bo is in the debate. He’s there to promote his upcoming movie, where he plays being mayor. People are going to realize this is an election between Bill de Blasio and me as the clear alternative. We are the serious contenders in this election and there’s a stark contrast between us.”

It’s essential for Malliotakis to rise above Dietl, said William O’Reilly, a Republican strategist. “Nicole’s mission is fairly simple: make it a two-way race. That’s ultimately the goal of this debate, is to completely shut out Bo Dietl, show him as a publicity stunt and no more,” he said. O’Reilly added that while “she has to put a crack into the mayor” and “there’s gotta be some excitement coming out of the debate,” it can’t be that Dietl was the most interesting aspect of the debate.

Malliotakis’ goal, O’Reilly said, must be the “takeaway is that there’s a real race between Nicole Malliotakis and Bill de Blasio.” He suggested she even use body language in ignoring Dietl, “almost to the point of rudeness.”

“It’s gotta be interesting to the press,” O’Reilly said of the debate overall, agreeing that if there are debate moments that lead to multiple days of stories and questions for the mayor, that Malliotakis will have been successful.

While Malliotakis has been honing her attacks on de Blasio in dozens of media appearances, public events, and press conferences, the face-to-face nature of the debate offers a new and special opportunity for her. O’Reilly said she must continue to hammer de Blasio on the key points she’s been making about his work ethic, focus, budgeting, and ineffectiveness on certain issues, like homelessness, and argue convincingly that the city is heading in the wrong direction. She must also present herself as a viable alternative, and show that she has ideas and command of the issues. It's a popular opinion among those watching closely that she would do well to unveil at least one or two signature policy proposals that capture her campaign -- either at the debate or soon thereafter. Regardless, de Blasio will remain in her crosshairs, and should.

“When you’re running against an incumbent, you need to snatch the office from underneath them. You have to remain critical,” O’Reilly said.

Republican City Council Member Eric Ulrich of Queens, who has been behind Dietl for months, told this weekend that he likes Malliotakis and thinks “she does a great job as an Assemblywoman on Staten Island,” but that she wasn’t the best choice as the GOP mayoral candidate. Citing “lackluster” fundraising and minimal name recognition, Ulrich said, “I don’t think Nicole’s campaign has been able to gain any traction or catch fire...I don’t think she was ready for prime time.”

Tuesday night, in prime time, is an opportunity for Malliotakis to catch fire.

2. Which Bo Dietl shows up?
Dietl is something of a performer -- and he is actually a TV and film actor -- and it is not exactly clear which version, or versions, of the former NYPD detective will participate in Tuesday’s debate.

When Gotham Gazette spoke with Dietl on Friday afternoon, he said he was just “going over statistics...misstatements from the current mayor.” Dietl mentioned key issues of education, subways, affordable housing, and homelessness.

Asked what he’s doing to prepare for the debate, Dietl said he was “reverifying some of the lies [de Blasio’s] telling.” “I’m the only non-politician,” he added, “I’m not doing this mock sh-t -- I’m mocking him,” Dietl said, in apparent reference to the mock debates that campaigns sometimes hold in preparation.

Dietl said he had watched the de Blasio-Albanese primary debates. “I didn’t like the way he treated Sal. I’m not gonna take it,” Dietl said. “I’m not going to be nice to him because I don’t have any respect for him.”

“I want people to see a clear-cut choice,” Dietl said of his goal for the debate. “It’s a chance for people to say ‘wow, that Bo is refreshing.’”

“I don’t believe in polls, first of all, but the way they are, I want people to see, this is a guy I believe in,” Dietl added.

“I want to show people they do have another choice,” Dietl said, “certainly not the Republican candidate, her voting record stands for itself.” He mentioned Malliotakis’ opposition to marriage equality (which she has said she regrets) and to minimum wage increases. “She’s out of the equation,” Dietl said, “I’m only debating one person, and that’s de Blasio. Unless she comes after me, I’m going to act like she’s not even there, she’s not my competition.”

Dietl said de Blasio has transparency problems and that the schools aren’t being run properly. He said “there’s a fear factor back in New York,” and that, as a former NYPD detective, he’s the right person to put in charge. The city “needs a mayor it can cheer,” Dietl added.

“He’s a very unliked person,” Dietl said of de Blasio, citing the incumbent’s “condescending attitude, like he’s the king or something -- he doesn’t realize, he’s an elected official.”

“Bo Dietl being in the debate is a gift for de Blasio,” said Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University. “He’ll be a distraction, and he’ll get to talk up to a third of the time, maybe more.” Dietl may also help de Blasio by attacking Malliotakis, Greer noted. “I’m sure Dietl will supply the gaffes,” she said, “he’s going to look erratic.”

“There’s going to be a big surprise on Tuesday,” Dietl told Gotham Gazette. “I said ‘no ‘wild man Bo,’’ we don’t know about that.”

3. What’s de Blasio’s approach?
The mayor positioned himself as fact-checker-in-chief during his two primary debates with Albanese, regularly saying that Albanese was getting his facts wrong and at one point accusing him of being in a “fact-free zone.”

De Blasio will surely be attacked a great deal by Malliotakis and Dietl -- how will the mayor respond?

Odds are de Blasio insists on correcting the record, or defending himself, whatever the case may be, and that he is a willing sparring partner with his opponents. One thing de Blasio does fairly well, though, is pivot into his talking points once he has engaged in some defensiveness. The mayor is practiced in the stagecraft, regularly speaking directly to camera so that he has the appearance of talking with viewers, not addressing his opponent or even the moderator.

“He has to watch the condescending tone,” said Greer, with particular regard to how he talks to and about Malliotakis. “Watch the mansplaining, starting sentences with ‘well, actually,’” Greer added. It helped the mayor that he had to debate Albanese, Greer said, given that “otherwise he’s been in the government phase.”

“Hopefully he’s looked at the tapes” of the primary debates, Greer said, and “hopefully he’s smart enough to have polished up some things.”

“I expect him to be his usual arrogant self,” Malliotakis said when asked what she expects from de Blasio Tuesday night. “He’ll be saying how wonderful and great everything is, which is not what the average New Yorker feels or thinks. I think the mayor wants New Yorkers to believe everything is wonderful because he says it is.”

As the incumbent seeking reelection, it reasons that much of the debate will be about de Blasio’s record, including some of the areas he’s most vulnerable, like ethics and transparency, and homelessness. Questions around the speed of progress in the city’s schools and in building affordable housing may also be raised, by the journalists asking the questions, the candidates, or both.

It will be interesting to see whether de Blasio has any new lines or new policy proposals. There’s a chance he has a practiced zinger or two for one or both of his opponents; he may also have some opposition ammunition regarding Malliotakis’ record in the Assembly or Dietl’s career as a private investigator. It’s more likely the mayor goes after Malliotakis than Dietl, but he has to be careful in terms of coming across as a mud-slinger or patriarchal toward his female opponent.

“It’s clear we’ve been mismanaged for the last few years,” Malliotakis said of de Blasio’s mayoralty. The debate will be a chance to explain how and to showcase her record, she said. “The time I’ve spent in the Legislature putting forward ideas for making New York City better has prepared me to make the case.” On the other hand, the mayor may be able to use Malliotakis’ resume against her, given the conservative nature of her legislative record and limits to what one rank-and-file Assembly member can accomplish, especially when in the minority conference.

The mayor and his team have been defensive about the extent to which de Blasio has put forth a second term agenda, with a number of press stories noting that he’s mostly made either vague, far-off promises, like closing Rikers Island jails in ten years, or pledged continuations of his current policies -- pre-K for all is supposed to become 3-K for all if the mayor is given another term, for example.

Expect de Blasio to attempt to articulate more sharply his second term agenda, but an interesting question will be whether he’s ready with a new proposal or two that hasn’t been announced before. Debates aren’t necessarily a typical venue for such an announcement, but de Blasio could potentially steal a lot of the spotlight if he were to put something new and exciting on the table.

"We are looking forward to discussing the Mayor's record of achievement, his vision for making New York City more affordable, creating 100,000 jobs and continuing to improve our schools, and how important it is for New Yorkers to turn out to vote for a Mayor who will stand up to Donald Trump,” said Dan Levitan, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement.

The incumbent has plenty to boast about -- he's followed through on a number of his promises and the city is doing well in many respects -- and de Blasio must be able to present his accomplishments while also recognizing that many New Yorkers are struggling on a daily basis.

Greer pointed to a slightly different balancing act de Blasio must peform, related to getting his supporters out to vote. “The mayor has to present that this campaign is important for you to turn out to vote, but without being alarmist,” she said, ‘Things are going well, the ship is steady, but I still need you to come out and vote.’”

4. The fourth politician on stage
Sal Albanese, the Reform Party nominee who came in second to de Blasio in the Democratic primary, is suing to be on the debate stage, but his case won’t be decided until after Tuesday. Mike Tolkin, running on his own Smart Cities ballot line and the third place finisher in the Democratic primary, qualified for the debate financially, through his own gifts to his campaign, but was not invited by NY1, and went on a hunger strike to demand inclusion.

But more so than Albanese or Tolkin, the fourth politician likely to be on stage Tuesday night is President Donald Trump, whom de Blasio will attempt to tie Malliotakis to, as he has done throughout the campaign. While Malliotakis voted for Trump last November, she had been a supporter of Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary and has voiced several areas of disagreement with Trump. Dietl also has his own ties to Trump, though he too has attempted to distance himself from the president.

How much de Blasio is able to make Trump a presence at the debate may factor into how well he comes across to New York City voters overall. Malliotakis often has a hard time finding the balance of being a conservative who voted for Trump and a Republican who often disagrees with the president and is open to being a bipartisan mayor.

“She’s had some fluidity on the campaign trail,” said Greer, of Fordham University, about Malliotakis’ attempts to discuss the president. “Trump is going to come up, and I don’t think it’s unfair that he does, actually. A lot of New Yorkers want to know. We’re at a moment of needing protection from the federal government, not just needing to work with the federal government.”

Malliotakis’ “biggest vulnerability is getting stuck in-between on the Trump conversation,” said O’Reilly, the Republican strategist, who runs The November Team. She must “stay true to her convictions but appeal to Democrats at the same time,” he added, which is not an easy task. Malliotakis has been peppered with Trump questions throughout the campaign and has showed some frustration with it. She insists this isn’t a race about Trump, however much de Blasio might like it to be, and that she is “not trying to fight an ideological war.”

Asked about how she’ll approach the mayor’s attempts to tie her to Trump, Malliotakis said Monday that she’s “going to be prepared,” but didn’t want to divulge specifics.

“Throughout the whole campaign the mayor has spoken more about Trump than he has about homelessness or transit or our public schools,” she said. “He’s trying to deflect from his failures as mayor. I anticipate he’ll do it again. It’s all he’s got.”

Malliotakis needs to get beyond the Trump conversation to broaden her appeal, O’Reilly said. “She has to break through with Democrats,” he said, noting the massive Democratic advantage in New York City. Malliotakis needs a Giuliani- or Bloomberg-type coalition to win, which includes a good number of moderate Democrats and party-unaffiliated voters, as well as many of the city’s half-million registered Republicans. There are well over 3 million registered Democrats in the city.

5. Who has momentum?
Many in the city see the election as a foregone conclusion, that de Blasio, with his major fundraising, name recognition, and voter enrollment advantages, is virtually unbeatable. Are the debates a formality? Can Malliotakis or Dietl make enough headway that she or he is taken more seriously and has the city buzzing for a few days?

With the second debate on November 1, just six days before the election, the first debate is a can’t-miss opportunity for the two challengers, who both need a new influx of campaign cash, along with increased media buzz and a sense of momentum.

In a weekend interview with, Dietl said he believes “there’s going to be a lot of people coming on board after Tuesday night,” indicating he expects an influx of support and funds after his debate performance.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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5 Things to Watch at The First General Election Mayoral Debate Mon, 09 Oct 2017 19:18:00 +0000
Good News and Bad News for Malliotakis' Mayoral Campaign malliotakis senior handshake via facebook

Nicole Malliotakis (via Facebook)

It’s been a bittersweet week for Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis, a sitting Assemblymember from Staten Island, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

While Malliotakis will have a major infusion of funds to get her message out and build her low name recognition across the five boroughs, she will also have to compete, at least for one important night, with the louder voice of a third mayoral candidate who threatens to debilitate Malliotakis’ chances of pulling off the long-shot upset of de Blasio, an incumbent with significant advantages in the race.

On Wednesday, independent mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, a brash former NYPD detective running on his own “Dump the Mayor” ballot line, announced that he had been invited to the first of two official mayoral debates ahead of the November 7 general election. Not only will Dietl pose a challenge to Malliotakis’ debate prospects in terms of positioning her opposition to de Blasio, but his inclusion immediately means more media attention and legitimacy for Dietl’s campaign.

The debate, scheduled for Tuesday, October 10 is organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board and was mandatory for those participating in the CFB’s public matching funds program, which matches qualifying small-dollar contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio. Malliotakis and de Blasio are participants in the program and Dietl is not, but he met the $500,000 debate threshold for campaign fundraising and spending and was also included in recent polling by NBC 4 New York/Marist.  

“While Dietl is not enrolled in the campaign finance program, we have decided to invite him based on his showing in a recent poll and his regular presence on the campaign trail,” said a spokesperson for Charter Communications, a debate sponsor and parent company of NY1, which will air the debate, also hosted by WNYC radio and other partners.

Dietl’s presence derails Malliotakis’ chances of a one-on-one, substantive debate with de Blasio -- he is a pugnacious, unpredictable character in the vein of Donald Trump -- but also threatens to further cut into votes that Malliotakis hopes to win. The two candidates share similar views and likely voters on a variety of issues, and their criticisms of the mayor are largely indistinguishable on many fronts. Both are significantly more conservative than de Blasio on most issues.

As it stands, in a city with six registered Democratic voters for each registered Republican, a conservative candidate has a limited constituency from which they can draw support and Dietl and Malliotakis have all along both been endangered by the likelihood of splitting anti-de Blasio votes. There is a significant number of party-unaffiliated voters to woo as well as moderate Democrats and Republicans, but most of the votes in play for Dietl or Malliotakis are largely out of the de Blasio target area to begin with.

Recently, Dietl has gone after Malliotakis, accusing her of filing fraudulent ballot petition signatures and insulting her at debates. Either purposely or not, he regularly mispronounce her name or refers to her in dismissive terms. Dietl argues that he is the only viable candidate who can defeat de Blasio and has called on Malliotakis to drop out of the race, which is is very unlikely to do.

“We’re surprised that the Bo Dietl traveling circus is included in the first debate,” said Rob Ryan, a Malliotakis campaign spokesperson, in a statement. “Nevertheless, Assemblywoman Malliotakis will hold Bill de Blasio accountable for his failure to solve the homeless crisis, fix our broken subway system and educate and keep our kids safe in our schools. She’s ready to take on Bill de Blasio and demand answers, it will be a great debate.”

While Dietl will continue to be a headache for Malliotakis and a distraction from her mission, the GOP standard bearer did receive some much more positive news this week.

On Thursday, the CFB approved a $1.52 million in public funds to be paid to Malliotakis’ campaign, bolstering her campaign coffers which held only $162,950, giving her a much-needed boost ahead of the debate and the final six weeks of the general election.

The added funds and the first debate may both help Malliotakis build much needed name recognition, including by spending more on advertising, and can also lead to the ability to bring in more money as the campaign continues -- a necessity if she is to run a viable campaign and make a stronger showing than Republican Joe Lhota made in 2013 against de Blasio, when Lhota received 24 percent of the vote to de Blasio’s 73 percent. In fact, on Friday Malliotakis' campaign announced her second video advertisement, attacking de Blasio on the issue of the subways, which the mayor does not control.

Malliotakis jumped into the mayoral race relatively late, in April, at a time when a well-funded candidate, millionaire real estate executive Paul Massey, was considered the frontrunner. After Massey dropped out, and other candidates failed to make an impression, Malliotakis quickly emerged at the front of the pack. But the three-term Assemblymember has struggled to raise her profile outside of her home borough of Staten Island and, somewhat relatedly, has not been able to raise especially significant funds for her campaign. Overall, she has raised $734,412 and spent $571,462.

Dietl, on the other hand, has relied on a network of wealthy allies to raise about $1 million, and has spent about $800,000.

Neither of them have come close to de Blasio, who has raised more than $5.25 million for his reelection and has received nearly $3 million in public funds. He has spent $5.78 million so far.

De Blasio’s campaign spokesperson, Dan Levitan, did not appear worked up by the news of Dietl’s inclusion in the first debate. “We are looking forward to discussing the Mayor's record of achievement, his vision for making New York City more affordable, creating 100,000 jobs and continuing to improve our schools, and how important it is for New Yorkers to turn out to vote for a Mayor who will stand up to Donald Trump,” Levitan said in a statement.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Good News and Bad News for Malliotakis' Mayoral Campaign Fri, 29 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
23 Things Bo Dietl Promises To Do As Mayor dietl big bird crop

Bo Dietl with a Big Bird he hired to perform outside a mayoral debate (@BoDeitl)

Mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective now a private investigator, was invited Wednesday to participate in the first official, televised mayoral debate of the general election. On October 10, Dietl will take the stage with incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and Republican Nicole Malliotakis, for the debate, which will be aired on NY1.

After a mistake with his paperwork as he tried to change parties to run in the Democratic primary, Dietl will be on the November ballot on his self-created “Dump de Blasio” line.

Dietl, who describes himself as a "conservative, moderate Democrat," was at one time a regular Fox News contributor and national spokesperson for Arby’s restaurants. He has raised close to  $1 million for his campaign, though he is not part of the Campaign Finance Board public matching program, so he is ineligible for a large sum of public funds that both de Blasio and Malliotakis will have, to varying amounts, at their disposals.

Like Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis, Dietl voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and in fact endorsed him. Both have tried to distance themselves from Trump as they’ve run for mayor. Also like Malliotakis, Dietl has focused his campaigning efforts on painting a picture of a city that is decaying due to a reclassification of low-level, nonviolent offenses under de Blasio, whom he refers to as “Big Bird” because of de Blasio’s height. They both also criticize de Blasio for ethical issues that have dogged the mayor’s term and reelection bid.

In the end, Dietl and Malliotakis may be competing for the same pool of voters, and risk splitting the anti-de Blasio vote.

Dietl has run a Trump-like campaign, complete with a bombastic media personality, a prolific use of Twitter, and calling his opponents nicknames.

But despite the similarities in style and tone, Dietl actually does not promise to bring Trump-like policies to New York, for the most part. While he has adopted a largely tough-on-crime stance when it comes to policing and criminal justice, he has also adopted centrist or even liberal views on some other issues such as transit.

Here are 23 things Bo Dietl promises to do as mayor, accumulated through his public appearances and social media posts, campaign statements and website, discussion on the Max & Murphy podcast, and other sources:

1. Centralize homeless shelter services in facilities on Randall’s and Ward’s Islands.

2. Direct funds from the city’s $4 billion surplus into the MTA’s capital budget to “accelerate infrastructure projects.” This rather than the de Blasio plan of taxing the 1% to fund the MTA.

3. Stop decriminalizing broken windows offenses like public urination.

4. “Eliminate stop-and-frisk in favor of community interactions.”

5. Stop “skewing crime statistics and underreporting crimes in schools.”

6. Implement a commuter tax on drivers entering the city, and use the revenues from that tax to subsidize MetroCards for “full-time employed New Yorkers” making less than $20,000 per year.

7. Increase vocational training within the school system.

8. Ban student cell phone use in city schools.

9. Expand Section 8 housing.

10. Curtail availability of prescription opioids and expand medical marijuana.

11. Keep Rikers Island jails open, but work on improving the complex’s accountability, transparency, services, and infrastructure. Abandon the plan to build new jails in the boroughs.

12. Curtail construction of bike lanes.

13. Avoid raising taxes on income, real estate, commercial rent.

14. Waive the college requirement for entering the NYPD, recruit straight out of high school.

15. Increase pay for police officers to boost morale.

16. Implement a plastic bags tax.

17. Convert all taxis and buses to clean energy vehicles.

18. Provide tax incentives for businesses that use renewable energy.

19. Increase the minimum wage.

20. Offer tax incentives to Wall Street and other businesses to participate in a fund to privatize college tuition grants for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year.

21. Fight the opioid epidemic by utilizing crime-fighting techniques “he used as an NYPD detective to successfully curtail the flow of drugs through communities in the 1980s.”

22. Force all real estate developers to build “meaningful affordable housing in all new complexes.”

23. Hold daily news conferences and “address any concern or answer any question the press poses about New York City.”

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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23 Things Bo Dietl Promises To Do As Mayor Wed, 27 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Mayoral Money Race as the General Election Heats Up bo dietl voting crop

Bo Dietl (photo: @BoDietl)

Six weeks from now, on November 7, New Yorkers will head to the polls to decide whether to renew the contract of Mayor Bill de Blasio, or if they want new leadership from one of the incumbent Democrat’s opponents in the general election.

The latest mayoral race poll, from NBC 4 New York/Marist, was released on September 19 and shows de Blasio well ahead of his main challengers -- Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl. De Blasio received 65 percent from likely voters, including undecided ones, while Malliotakis received 18 percent and Dietl 8 percent. Sal Albanese, a former City Council member and lost by a wide margin to de Blasio in the Democratic primary, will also be on the ballot on the Reform Party line, but he was not included in the poll. Michael Tolkin, another runner-up to de Blasio in the primary, has also created a separate general election ballot line called “Smart Cities,” while several other candidates will also be on the November ballot, such as Green Party mayoral nominee Akeem Browder.

Coming out of primary day with a massive win, securing 74.2 percent of the vote, de Blasio continues to hold a strong fundraising advantage, and his spending on an extensive ground game and media campaign has overshadowed his opponents. The most recent campaign finance filings, covering the period between August 29 and September 18, show the mayor raising campaign cash at a comfortable clip, with a majority of contributions under $175, which qualify to be matched at a 6-to-1 ratio under the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program.

De Blasio raised just over $272,000 in this last filing period, and his campaign expects that to reach $400,000 with the second round of payouts of public matching funds. This period also coincided with the rollout of a massive ad buy for his campaign, resulting in more than $3 million in expenditures. Of that expenditure, $2.51 million went to airing television ads and $175,000 to digital ads. Overall, the mayor has raised $5.25 million, and received $2.86 million in public matching funds before the September 12 primary. Having spent $5.78 million so far, he has about $2.34 million in cash on hand, with new public money expected soon.

“Our campaign’s grassroots fundraising has only picked up the pace since our strong showing on Primary Day,” said Rick Fromberg, de Blasio’s campaign manager, in a statement that also touted the mayor’s first-term record on crime, affordable housing, and pre-kindergarten.

Malliotakis, a state Assemblymember who represents parts of Staten Island and a sliver of Brooklyn, has also stepped up her fundraising, coming close to de Blasio in this last period with $241,000 in contributions. She spent nearly $300,000 in the same period, of which about $200,000 went to television ads. Malliotakis has struggled to garner name recognition outside of her home borough of Staten Island, with 49 percent of likely voters in the NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll saying they had never heard of her and 17 percent saying they were unsure of how to rate her.

Her campaign has not taken off in terms of fundraising, but it is buoyed by having hit the threshold for public matching funds, and is expecting a $1.6 million payout from the CFB later this week. By qualifying for the funds, “we open a whole new chapter in my campaign to retire Bill de Blasio,” Malliotakis said in a statement. “New Yorkers understand that Bill de Blasio has failed New York City and its residents, that’s why we are receiving the donations needed to turn this race into a competitive election.”

In total, Malliotakis has raised more than $734,412 and spent $571,462, leaving her just $162,950 in her campaign account without public funds. She also surpassed the dual thresholds of campaign expenditure and spending and required poll numbers to face de Blasio on the stage for two official CFB-sponsored debates ahead of the general election. The first is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10, just two weeks from now.

Dietl, the Trump-like former NYPD detective who runs his own private investigation firm, raised just under $20,000 in the last filing period and spent about $80,000. Unlike the other candidates, Dietl did not purchase any ads and has largely relied on social media to get his message out. He has raised just over $1 million overall (including $100,000 from a personal loan he gave his campaign) and spent a little more than $800,000, leaving him with $208,898. He is not participating in the public matching program, so he will not receive any additional funds through the Campaign Finance Board.

Albanese’s campaign has been a small-dollar affair throughout. In the last filing period, he raised just $6,360 and spent $4,424. Much of Albanese’s campaign cash was depleted last month when he made big expenditures to qualify for the Democratic primary debates. Since he joined the race, he has managed to raise $214,141 and has spent $190,081, leaving $24,060 in his coffers.

There are more than a dozen other candidates also running for mayor. Tolkin raised about $234,000 in contributions and spent about $192,000 in his latest filing. Tolkin’s filings also show $5.4 million in total fundraising and expenditures but a majority of that falls under “in-kind” contributions, in the form of services and branded merchandising that Tolkin claimed for his campaign.

The Green Party’s Akeem Browder, brother of Kalief Browder -- the young Bronx man who was imprisoned on Rikers Island for three years on charges of stealing a backpack that were later dropped, beaten and put in solitary confinement, and later committed suicide after being released. Browder, who has criticized de Blasio’s ten-year timeline for closing the scandal-ridden Rikers jail complex, has raised $1,887 and spent just $100.

Libertarian candidate Aaron Commey has raised $2,001 and spent $1,111.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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The Mayoral Money Race as the General Election Heats Up Mon, 25 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Dietl, Malliotakis Make Last-Minute Play for Reform Party Nomination dietl by samar crop

Bo Dietl (photo: Samar Khurshid)

GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl are both making a last-minute push to win the Reform Party ballot line for November’s mayoral election. While Sal Albanese, who is also challenging Mayor Bill de Blasio in the Democratic primary, has been backed by the Reform Party, Dietl and Malliotakis are each attempting to convince their supporters to help them steal the ballot line by voting on primary day -- Tuesday, September 12 -- using a provision in state election law that effectively allows an open vote.

Albanese, a former City Council member who is running as a Democrat, was officially endorsed by the Reform Party of New York and is counting on winning the line to be included in the November 7 general. But, an “opportunity to ballot” petition filed with the Board of Elections has opened up the party line to other candidates as well, allowing registered Reform Party voters as well as unaffiliated voters -- those not registered with any party -- to write in the candidate of their choice. The petition had to be signed by only 5 percent of the party's registered members, which amounts to about 10 signatures in the case of the Reform Party which has a total of 187 registered voters. On primary day, Albanese’s name will appear on the Reform Party ballot next to an area that allows for a write-in vote.

Both Dietl and Malliotakis, each of whom is assured of a spot on the November ballot through other lines, has sent out a mass mailing with instructions for their supporters, Gotham Gazette has learned.

dietl mailer
malliotakis mailer 1
malliotakis mailer 2

According to Frederico Polsinelli, Bo Deitl’s campaign manager, the petition to ballot was filed by Reform Party members who support Dietl and “felt that Bo had been shut out unfairly and felt that the Reform Party should have an open, fair process to vote.”

Dietl was passed over for the Reform Party’s endorsement in June and lashed out at Staten Island Reform Party Chair Frank Morano in a number of obscenity-laden text messages. A Staten Island Advance reporter posted screenshots of the messages on Twitter.

Malliotakis spokesperson Rob Ryan confirmed that the campaign has begun reaching out to voters. “We did a bunch of robocalls and a mailing that will be hitting today or tomorrow which also explains the process,” he said. Ryan provided Gotham Gazette with the instruction mailers which include directions on how to choose Malliotakis. (pictured)

Polsinelli, Dietl’s campaign manager, said they are taking an “active, aggressive” approach to the process. “We’re encouraging all independent and Reform Party voters to go to the ballot and write in Dietl’s name,” he said. “We’re in the process of launching a citywide mailer. We’re actively reaching out, we’re going hard on email, phonecalls and hard mail. This is not a passive exercise.”

He said the Dietl campaign is targeting about 8,000 voters. “We’re in this to beat [Mayor] de Blasio and getting on the Reform Party line will help do that.” Dietl will be on his own self-created ballot line, “Dump the Mayor,” for November’s election.

Malliotakis will be the Republican nominee, and she also has the backing of the Conservative Party. She has also filed to appear on her own self-created ballot lines. De Blasio will likely appear on both the Democratic Party and Working Families Party ballot lines.

Albanese’s campaign does not seem worried about the added competition. “Sal’s the only candidate whose name is on the ballot,” said Linda Cronin-Gross, a campaign spokesperson, referring to the Reform Party ballot, which voters will have to ask for at the polls.

New York election law, in normal circumstances, only allows closed primaries in which registered members of a party can cast a vote to choose their nominee. This shuts out voters who do not have a party affiliation from voting on primary day. According to the latest statistics from the state Board of Elections, as of April 1, there were more than 780,000 active registered voters unaffiliated with a party. The Reform Party had only 183 active registered voters.

“It’s creating quite an interesting contest,” said the Reform Party’s Morano. “I do think Sal’s gonna win pretty handily...Sal best embodies the Reform principles.” Morano noted that if Albanese, or any other candidate, fails to receive 40 percent of the vote in that primary, it will trigger an automatic run-off two weeks later between the top two vote-getters.

“It’s gonna be interesting to see how this works,” Morano said. “It’s certainly a first-of-its-kind experiment.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note- this article has been updated to include details about the "opportunity to ballot" petition process. 

Dietl, Malliotakis Make Last-Minute Play for Reform Party Nomination Fri, 08 Sep 2017 17:22:52 +0000
Inside the Numbers: Mayoral Campaign Spending bdb bk camp office

Mayor de Blasio at his reelection headquarters (@BilldeBlasio)

As New York City’s campaign season hurtles toward the September 12 primaries and November 7 general election, bringing new flurries of fundraising and spending from mayoral candidates, attention has largely been focused on the ‘raising,’ with a few recent donations getting headlines.

Less examined has been the spending, and not for a lack of it; according to filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio alone has parted with over $2.48 million in campaign funds this cycle, far outpacing any rivals still in the race (real estate executive Paul Massey, who abruptly suspended his campaign for the Republican mayoral nomination in June, spent $3.7 million in addition to the $1.1 million he loaned his campaign, and has over $300,000 in outstanding liabilities). All numbers have yet to be audited by the CFB.

The mayor’s not the only big spender: security contractor Bo Dietl, who failed to get on the Republican ballot line but is running for mayor as an independent, has spent over $620,000. Rocky De La Fuente, a wealthy businessman who has said he would suspend his campaign after being knocked off the Republican mayoral primary ballot, though he has yet to officially do so, has spent over $350,000 in addition to $250,000 in loans to his campaign. State Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, the presumptive GOP nominee for mayor, has spent over $160,000 and has almost $30,000 in outstanding liabilities.

Other than Massey’s extraordinary spending, the largest storyline on the expenditure front thus far has been Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, who had to raise and spend somewhat feverishly in recent weeks in order to qualify for an official, televised primary debate against the incumbent mayor, de Blasio.

Albanese, a former City Council member in his third official mayoral run, has spent over $185,000 as of the mid-August filing with the CFB, of which almost $134,000 was spent in the latest filing period encompassing July 12 to August 7. The ramped-up spending was part of his push to qualify for the first Democratic primary debate, to be held Wednesday, August 23. The city’s Campaign Finance Act requires that candidates who participate in the city’s matching funds program raise and spend 2.5 percent of the campaign’s primary expenditure limit ($174,225 for mayor), to participate.

The other contenders looking to unseat de Blasio in the Democratic primary have also been spreading the wealth. Tech entrepreneur Michael Tolkin – whose estimated $5 million in-kind contribution to his campaign Gotham Gazette reported on before he added more in-kinds that he valued at $2.95 million – has directly spent a separate $226,000 on the race, with close to $120,000 in outstanding liabilities.

The full expenditure limit for mayoral races is $6,969,000 each for the primary and general races, though no participating candidate seems to be in any danger of surpassing the cap. Dietl and Tolkin are not participants in the program, which is run out of CFB and provides candidates meeting certain criteria with public funds matching eligible contributions. Malliotakis and Albanese are both trying to hit the threshold to begin receiving matching funds from the CFB.

So where has the money gone? Below is an overview of expenditures by candidates spending at least the CFB debate qualification threshold who are still in the race: de Blasio, Dietl, Malliotakis, Albanese, and Tolkin. All filings are self-reported, some expenses have overlaps, and campaigns employ different reporting guidelines, so figures are approximations:

Bill de Blasio (Democrat)

Total Spending (including liabilities): $2.48 million (mouse over the graph for more detail)


Over 34 percent – more than $860,000 – of de Blasio’s spending has been directed towards consultants.

At least four consultants or consultancies have been paid over $100,000 each by the campaign, with Hilltop Public Solutions taking in the most at over $224,000 total in general consulting and management fees since February of 2016. Close behind is the progressive-focused firm Revolution Messaging, which has been paid about $222,000 since October 2016 in digital consulting and website development fees.

Ross Offinger, a fundraiser and former de Blasio aide who fundraised for the now defunct Campaign For One New York and was ensnared in the ensuing controversy when the nonprofit was investigated for facilitating pay-to-play with the mayor, was paid about $164,000 in finance consulting and fundraising fees. The payments began in November of 2015 and have continued throughout the scandal and investigations, which ultimately did not lead to criminal charges.

BerlinRosen, the communications firm with close links to the mayor, has been paid over $115,000 for consulting work since February 2016.

Wages make up almost 30 percent – about $740,000 – of de Blasio’s campaign spending.

Just over $200,000 of this appears to be payroll taxes processed through ADP Payroll Solutions, which was also paid separately for professional services related to the processing. Elana Leopold, the campaign’s finance director, is the staffer that’s been paid the most overall, more than $140,000 since April 2016. Phil Walzak, who worked on de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, then in City Hall, and is now a communications and overall strategist for the reelection campaign, has been paid about $100,000. Walzak left the de Blasio administration for the campaign in October 2016.

A series of other staffers have been paid $50,000 or less.

The campaign has spent about 13 percent, or some $320,000, in fundraising expenses beyond personnel, the largest of which was $41,100 in fees for the online fundraising platform ActBlue. Other expenditures are largely for catering and venues, like a $30,931 payment to the Sheraton Hotel for a November 2015 event.

About 9 percent, or some $230,000 of spending, has gone toward polling, all to the same firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, making it the single entity to have received the most money from the campaign. It was paid on six separate dates between October 2015 and the beginning of this month for costs associated with research, travel, and polling.

Just over $150,000 in de Blasio campaign costs, or 6 percent, were dedicated to rent and office expenses, including almost $67,000 to the coworking and office space company WeWork. Until recently opening its Brooklyn campaign headquarters, the campaign used WeWork space.

Another $100,000, or 4 percent, went towards professional services, including close to $79,000 in legal services provided by the law firm Kantor, Davidoff, Mandelker, Twomey, Gallanty & Kesten, P.C., which was also paid almost $51,000 in consulting services. The remaining $89,000, about 3.6 percent, went to other expenses like petition collection and ads.

Nicole Malliotakis (Republican)

Total Spending (including liabilities): $194,395 (mouse over the graph for more detail)


About $61,000, or 31 percent, of Malliotakis’ spending has gone to consultants, though she does not appear to have a dedicated campaign staff and has not paid any wages, meaning even her campaign spokesperson Rob Ryan is listed as a consultant. Ryan is also the most paid consultant, having received $19,641 since the beginning of June, about a month after Malliotakis launched her candidacy. Consulting fees of $15,000 have also gone to the Staten-Island based PR firm The Von Agency – run by political operative and former Republican County Chair Leticia Remauro – which has also provided roughly $29,800 in professional services related to media management and public relations, and $10,000 in advertising, which is included here in the promotion category. Other professional services, which together make up roughly $44,000, or about 22.4% of spending, includes $8,000 to the Staten Island Advance for online impressions of their work.

Promotion, including campaign literature, the cost of website registration and maintenance, and advertisements, accounts for about $41,000, or 21% of spending. Almost $14,000 of it went to Luke’s Copy Shop for campaign mailers and other literature. About $16,000, or 8 percent, was spent on rent and office supplies, including $13,750 to KRE, LLC for an office space, about $14,400 – just over 7 percent – went to fundraising expenses, and $12,000 – 6 percent – went to the firm Barry Zeplowitz & Associates for polling. The rest, some $6,600, went to assorted other expenses.

Sal Albanese (Democrat)

Total Spending (including liabilities): $185,802 (mouse over the graph for more detail)


About $87,000, or almost 47 percent, of Albanese’s spending went to promotional materials for his campaign, most of it to a small Minnesota-based firm called North Woods advertising. The firm is run by Bill Hillsman, a longtime collaborator of the Reform Party, which endorsed Albanese (he’ll appear on the general election ballot on the Reform Party line regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary).

North Woods was paid a total of $83,000 in a deposit, video production, and digital ad purchasing for advertising related to the campaign. Additionally, the firm was paid $46,903 in consulting costs, including retainers, and travel expenses. A good portion of this spending was likely related to the development and promotion of the “de-Blah meter” that Albanese’s campaign launched August 3, a gimmick that allows users to rate “How Bad is Mayor de Blasio?,” as the campaign put it.

Albanese’s campaign has also paid about $13,600 in consulting costs to LCG Communications, the PR firm belonging to his campaign spokesperson, Linda Cronin-Gross, rounding off the roughly $60,500, or 32.6 percent, that the campaign spent on consultants.

The campaign also spend almost $22,000, or near 12 percent of spending, on expenses associated with gathering petitions to get Albanese on the ballot. Only about $1,250 of this was spent on printing the petitions, while the rest went to other candidates who agreed to jointly pursue petitions with the campaign, probably using their own staffers and volunteers.

Just over $9,000, around five percent, of Albanese’s expenses through the most recent filing went to fundraising expenses, and $5,800, or about 3 percent, was spent on professional services encompassing a law firm and website design.

Bo Dietl (independent)

Total Spending (including liabilities): $641,389.18 (mouse over the graph for more detail)


Dietl spent over $307,000, or about 48 percent, on promotion of his campaign largely through Facebook and other online ads, and TV ads. Most of this went to two companies: Jump 450 media, which was paid over $147,000 for digital and Facebook ads in addition to $81,000 in consulting and services for media consulting and website work, and Political Communications Advertising which was paid $150,000 for the purchase of television ads.

About $195,000 in spending, or over 30 percent, went to consultants.

In addition to the consulting fees paid to Jump 450, Dietl gave the firm Polsinelli Public Affairs $40,000 in consulting fees related to PR and public relations services. Several campaign strategists and operatives similarly appear to have been paid as consultants, including campaign members setting up phone banks. Roughly $36,600, or 5.7 percent of spending, went to professional services costs, including credit card fees, website work, and $10,000 to attorney Martin Connor for legal services.

Some $35,000 or about 5.5 percent, went to costs associated with fundraising, mostly for food and beverage services. Almost $34,000 went towards office expenses including phones, office catering, and office supplies, and a bit over $27,000 went to wages.

Michael Tolkin (Democrat)

Total Spending (excluding in-kinds, including liabilities): $338,912.21 (mouse over the graph for more detail)


The bulk of Tolkin’s direct spending went to petition-gathering, with spending nearing $114,000, or about 33.6 percent. Most went to the firm Ardleigh Group LLC, which received $108,707. About $81,000, or almost 24 percent, was spent on consultants, including $50,000 to marketing firm Brand Knew LLC for marketing consulting services. Brand Knew also received over $71,000 in professional services fees for branding and marketing work, as well as media buying. It was also paid almost $15,000 in unspecified advance fees, which we are categorizing as “other.”

The rest of the consulting fees went to the law firm Falcon Jacobson & Gertler LLP, which also took in in $21,000 in professional services fees for legal compliance work. About $40,000, or nearly 12 percent of spending, went to promotional materials, including over $24,000 to Pasadena Pictures for video production work. As Gotham Gazette previously reported, Tolkin has also declared millions of dollars in in-kind contributions to his campaign.

by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette

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Inside the Numbers: Mayoral Campaign Spending Wed, 16 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000