With their endorsement still in play, Tom Long, head of the Queens County Conservative Party invited real estate mogul Paul Massey, pastor and former New York Jets player Michel Faulkner, and ex-cop and television personality Bo Dietl to hear how they plan to beat Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We will be electing hopefully a new mayor this year,” Long said. “We have not made our mind up yet. We have interviewed all three of them, one each month, and now we’re coming together and they’ll have a chance to address the crowd.”
Long, like all three candidates, was sharply critical of de Blasio and how his first term has impacted the people of Queens.
“I don’t think he is doing the city justice by putting homeless shelters in all the neighborhoods,” Long said. “He’s talking about closing Rikers Island. That all sounds good, but where do those criminals go? In whose neighborhood? Next to what house?”
Long also said he believed de Blasio was breaking the law by not complying with the federal mandate to end New York City’s status as a sanctuary city.
Massey, who has no prior political experience, has received the backing of the Independence Party. He emphasized his passion for improving New York City schools in a brief chat before he spoke at the dinner.
“We’ve got failing scores and poor graduation rates,” he said.
While data from the mayor’s office says that in 2016 graduation rates were the highest ever recorded and dropout rates the lowest, Massey says that more than half of those kids are not college or job ready. To address that, he’s focusing on school choice and closing failing schools.
He also disagrees with how de Blasio plans to address the over 60,000 homeless individuals populating city streets, an issue of great importance to the people of Queens.
“We need to provide the mental health help that they need, and we really need to move away from being reactionary and defaulting to using local hotels to house homeless people,” he said.
Faulkner is also a political neophyte, never having held elected office. He ran for U.S. Congress in 2010, but lost to Charles Rangel after securing just 10 percent of the vote.
He doesn’t believe that lack of experience will hold him back, touting his longtime work with Liberty University and running a soup kitchen in New York City.
“We need servant leaders,” Faulkner said. “The mission of serving this city and serving the people has gotten lost in our political narrative.”
He criticized de Blasio for being “an expert in spending other people’s money,” but admitted the need to look inward on how to engage more people in the political process.
“And it’s really easy to pick on him, but I think we need to look further than the mayor,” he said. “We need to look at ourselves.”
Dietl, a former New York City police detective and Queens native, has also never formally held elected office, although he has experience working for both former president George H.W. Bush and governor George Pataki, as well as the state Republican Party.
He was inspired to run after his son was a victim of a robbery last year. He said if de Blasio is re-elected, he thinks there will be a return to crime levels of the 1990s.
Dietl said if elected he would eliminate the education barrier to becoming a New York City police officer – which currently requires at least 60 college credits – to bolster the department and give a more diverse representation of kids in New York City.
“Some of these kids in the inner cities would love to be cops,” Dietl said. “Let’s bring them on to the Police Department, let our police reflect their communities.”
His appearance at the party came hours after he came under fire for comparing a black judge’s appearance to First Lady Chirlane McCray.
“She looked like Chirlane de Blasio,” Dietl explained. “I looked at my lawyer and said ‘I know people are going to laugh, but there’s no racial intention here.’ She looked like her, very similar. I said ‘did he hire his wife to be the judge?’
“Now I’m being called a racist,” he added. “I have no cell in body with racism and I had never been accused of that in my life. I take exception to it.”
After a voter registration mixup, Dietl is currently not registered with any political party and would need the blessing of city Republican leadership to run on the line.
The trio joins Darren Dione Aquino, Rocky De La Fuente and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis in seeking the Republican not to challenge the mayor in November.