The Republican-Conservative candidate for City Council, John Quaglione, was clearly in friendly territory on Tuesday, October 10, as the Dyker Heights Civic Association hosted a debate between him and his Democratic opponent, Justin Brannan.
The race, to replace current 43rd District Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who is term-limited, has been widely recognized as the most competitive City Council race in the city, in a district that is represented by both Democrats (Gentile, Assemblymembers Pamela Harris and Peter Abbate) and Republicans (Congressmember Dan Donovan, State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis).
With the crowd at St. Philip’s Parish Hall, 80th Street and 11th Avenue, shooting the occasional loaded question at Brannan about, in their words, “illegal immigrants,” or the fate of the Columbus Circle Columbus statue (both candidates want to see it remain), and Quaglione pushing his proposal to get rid of the five-cent bottle fee (“Taking away the incentive for people to trespass,” an ongoing issue in Dyker Heights), the debate was tailored to neighborhood perspective, in a community known to be the most conservative in the district which also includes Bay Ridge, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst. (It was the only part of the 43rd Council District to vote for President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.)
Nonetheless, good humor generally prevailed in a debate that began with the two candidates shaking hands.
As happened a week earlier, Quaglione, who stressed that he was poised to “work across the aisle” in a legislative body dominated by Democrats, sought to tie Brannan — who worked at the Department of Education during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term — to de Blasio, who has been on the receiving end of a steady barrage of Republican/Conservative criticism for his position on undocumented immigrants, his handling of the homeless situation in the city, and his newly appointed monument commission, among other things.
“The de Blasio administration is using our district as an ATM,” Quaglione warned at one point, repeatedly pointing out his opponent’s ties to the mayor, as he sought to frame his own candidacy in terms of opposition to the incumbent mayor, noting in his closing, “I will stand up to the failed policies of Bill de Blasio. I’m the alternative to Bill de Blasio.”
This time, however, Brannan — who contended that he was his own man, noting “I’m going to be a guy who will stand up to the mayor when he’s wrong and work with him when it benefits our district, plain and simple” — responded by making the connection between Quaglione and Trump.
“My opponent supports Donald Trump. If that’s the way you want to go, if you want to add Donald Trump to the City Council, well then the choice is pretty clear,” Brannan told the crowd, adding, “My opponent is also ashamed to call himself a Republican. On my literature, in my mailings, it says I’m a Democrat. My opponent doesn’t mention the party at all.”
On issues, both expressed support for cracking down on the growing neighborhood problem of illegal home conversions, though they expressed support for different tactics,
and also for careful husbanding of city finances.
Quaglione blasted the mayor for reducing the city’s “rainy day fund” by about 50 percent and increasing the city budget, and Brannan, who called himself a “fiscal conservative,” warned that, “Even though the city is doing well now, we have to prepare for when that isn’t the case. We can’t be spending like a drunken sailor.”
The election will take place on Tuesday, November 7. Besides Quaglione and Brannan, Bob Capano (a former candidate for the GOP nomination) will be running on the Reform Party line.