Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio, the Republican challenger to Queens state Sen. Mike Gianaris, had an usual guest at a fundraiser for his campaign this weekend: John Gotti, Jr.
Gotti had extended a private invitation by email to some of his friends to attend a fundraiser this past Sunday at Saggio’s Restaurant in East Norwich, Long Island, a pizzeria owned by Arcabascio’s brother.
When he broke the news on Curtis Sliwa’s radio show this morning on AM 970, Sliwa was outraged that the Republican establishment in New York, including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, could be supporting a candidate that Gotti is “backing.” Sliwa was shot in 1992 as part of an attack that federal prosecutors charged Gotti with ordering, though the charges against Gotti were dropped after four attempts to try him.
“I can’t believe this,” Sliwa said on his show. “Michael Long of the Conservative Party, who himself was shot when he was robbed… many years ago by wiseguys – luckily he survived – Rudy Giuliani, number one mob-buster extraordinaire, my very dear goombada cicci, Phil Ragusa, head of the local county Republicans… and Ed Cox, head of the New York State Republican Party, and they’re all backing this guy? If they continue to back him I am going to have to do the unthinkable – for many of you, you would say the indefensible – go out and promote the re-election of the Democrat, Michael Gianaris.”
Reached for comment, Arcabascio confirmed Gotti’s attendance at the fundraiser, noting that Gotti is a frequent patron of his brother’s restaurant, which is located near the former mob boss’s home. However, he disputed that Gotti was a supporter and said that he has not made a contribution to his campaign.
“I don’t think he’s supporting or endorsing me,” Arcabascio said. “It just happens that he and his family happen to frequent the restaurant.”
Asked if he had any misgivings about Gotti, Jr. attending his fundraiser, Arcabascio responded, “No. Not at all.”
Phil Ragusa, who said he first heard about the fundraiser listening to Sliwa’s show this morning, told City & State, “If it doesn’t bother [Arcabascio], it doesn’t bother me… [Gotti]’s a citizen of the United States and New York State and he can have his preferences on who he would like to elect.”
Michael Long, who said that he was unfamiliar with Arcabascio and had never met him, said, “I don’t think Gotti, Jr. should be involved in supporting political candidates and I certainly don’t think candidates should be looking to get his support.”
A message left for with Giuliani Partners for the former mayor were not immediately returned.
UPDATED: Becky Miller, a spokeswoman for GOP Chairman Ed Cox, said, “We don’t get involved with local endorsements. This is a Queens issue, not a state party issue.”