Republican mayoral candidates Curtis Sliwa and Fernando Mateo threw mud at each other during a raucous debate Wednesday.
Guardian Angels founder Sliwa went for the jugular right away, seeking to paint Mateo as a “de Blasio Republican” for raising campaign cash for the Democratic mayor.
“You raised money for him, straw-purchased donors, which is illegal. You helped elect the man who single-handedly has destroyed this city,” said Sliwa, sporting the Guardian Angels’ trademark red beret, during the debate on WABC radio.
Mateo bundled money for de Blasio but wasn’t charged with any crime.
“Shame on you, Curtis. You lied. It’s fake news,” Mateo said.
“Straw donations are illegal. You got jail for that. I never did that … It’s not true.
“You did raise illegal contributions,” Sliwa insisted, saying The Post and the Times wrote stories about Mateo’s fundraising for the mayor.
Mateo later added, “You know what? I have enough dirt to cover your body 18 feet over.”
Mateo then turned the tables on Sliwa, noting until recently he was a member of the Reform Party that backed a Democrat who defeated a Republican incumbent for a state Senate seat in Brooklyn in 2018.
The Dominican-born Mateo also said, [Sliwa] “never owned a business. He’s lived off his nonprofit … You live off the Guardian Angels.”
Sliwa said he has long stumped and backed Republicans — including Rudy Giuliani for mayor and George Pataki for governor.
“You can’t say I haven’t been out there for Republicans,” he said.
The lightning round of questions that demanded yes or no answers elicited agreement and disagreement.
Both candidates said Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be criminally indicted for the COVID-19 nursing home scandals.
Both said they expected Donald Trump to run again for president in 2024.
Mateo said he voted for Trump in 2020; Sliwa said he didn’t.
Mateo opposes legalization of the recreational use of marijuana. Sliwa, who used medicinal marijuana to treat an illness, supports legalization.
Both would replace Dermot Shea as police commissioner.
They both said they would restore broken windows policing for low-level and quality of life crimes.
77 WABC Radio was an odd venue to host the debate.
Until recently, Sliwa was a radio host at the radio station. Its owner, John Catsimatidis, has endorsed Sliwa. Andrea Catsimatidis, the Manhattan Republican Party chairwoman and John’s daughter, endorsed Mateo.
Another Republican candidate running for City Hall, financier Sara Tirschwell, declined to participate in the debate, claiming it was not an impartial forum because the station owner supports Sliwa and Sliwa had worked there.
But longtime TV and radio news anchor Dominick Carter declared at the beginning of the debate that Sliwa’s employment at WABC radio “will curry no favor” with him. And it didn’t.