There is more to Curtis Sliwa than his 16 cats and his famous red beret.
Mr. Sliwa, 67, has received more attention over his small army of rescue cats than anything else on the campaign trail, as he wages a long-shot bid as the Republican mayoral candidate.
But Mr. Sliwa has been a celebrity in New York City for decades.
He became famous in the 1980s for leading the Guardian Angels, a civilian crime-fighting group. He became a conservative radio host known for saying outrageous things. He survived a shooting that left him with five bullet wounds and testified at a federal trial against John A. Gotti, the Gambino crime family scion.
He got involved in politics, and led the Reform Party of New York State; in 2018, the last statewide election, the Reform Party drew the fewest votes for governor among 10 parties on the ballot. He became a Republican last year and decided to run for mayor, winning a bitter primary in June against his longtime friend Fernando Mateo, a restaurateur.
Mr. Sliwa has focused on a law-and-order message, and he has criticized former President Donald J. Trump and said that he did not vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 or 2020.
He acknowledges that there have been few parallels to his campaign.
“Who at the age of 67 is running around wearing a red beret and a red satin jacket and going out there like a crime fighter and a superhero from our days reading comic books?” Mr. Sliwa told The New York Times over the summer. “That’s a bit eccentric.”
Eric Adams’s message during the Democratic primary was that he would be a blue-collar mayor whose lived experiences matched those of everyday New Yorkers.
By focusing on his biography of growing up poor, suffering abuse at the hands of police and then joining the department to try to change it from within, Mr. Adams, 61, successfully argued that he would be able to focus on public safety while preserving civil rights.
If elected, Mr. Adams would be only the city’s second Black mayor.
After the June primary election, Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a centrist, proclaimed that he was “the face of the new Democratic Party,” and vowed to “show America how to run a city.”
He has since worked to significantly expand his base, courting the city’s business community, holding several fund-raisers and consulting with former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his team about how to govern.
Mr. Adams’s primary campaign focused on crime. Although the issue remains a significant focus for him, he has also begun to lay out some of his other ideas, calling for neighborhoods such as SoHo in Manhattan to be rezoned to create more affordable housing; pledging to build hundreds of miles of new bike lanes; and promising to keep and expand the city’s gifted and talented program in public schools after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was phasing it out.
In the months since Eric Adams won a highly contested Democratic mayoral primary in June, most of his focus has been on fund-raising, vetting potential administration officials and preparing for his likely transition to the mayoralty.
But for at least one hour, Mr. Adams will be forced to devote some attention to his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, as they go head-to-head on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first of two official debates among the two leading candidates for mayor of New York City.
The one-hour debate will be aired on WNBC-TV Channel 4 and also on Telemundo, Channel 47, in Spanish.
NYC Life TV will offer a simulcast on Channel 25.1.
A team of reporters from The New York Times will provide live commentary and analysis for the debate, which will be moderated by four journalists: David Ushery, a news anchor for WNBC-TV in New York; Sally Goldenberg, the City Hall bureau chief for Politico New York; Melissa Russo, WNBC’s political and government affairs reporter; and Allan Villafaña, an anchor for Telemundo 47.
With Election Day less than two weeks away, the two major-party candidates running for mayor of New York City will face off at 7 p.m. Wednesday in their first of two televised debates.
The clear front-runner is Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who won a competitive Democratic primary in June and who holds a strong lead in fund-raising, endorsements and in party favoritism: Registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly seven to one in New York City.
His Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels subway patrol group, has struggled to gain momentum as a candidate, and is expected to use the debates to attack Mr. Adams, who has largely ignored him on the campaign trail.
The candidates have already traded barbs in recent weeks ahead of the Nov. 2 election. Mr. Adams called Mr. Sliwa racist and said that he was making the campaign a circus. Mr. Sliwa has criticized Mr. Adams’s campaign against a whistle-blower police officer in the 1990s and has raised questions over where Mr. Adams lives.
Both candidates have focused on a law-and-order message. But Mr. Adams, a former police captain, has treated the election almost as an afterthought, proclaiming himself as the future of the national Democratic Party and holding meetings on his likely transition to the mayoralty.