You can see almost the whole city from New York City mayoral candidate Bo Dietl’s 50th floor Midtown office, but the office he wants to move to, City Hall, is blocked from view by the phalanx of government buildings surrounding it. And after getting just 6 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, it seems that Dietl may have to accept his fate, blocked from City Hall entirely.
But Dietl has a big chance to win over voters tonight on the sleepy race’s biggest stage: the first general election debate, organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board and broadcast by NY1 and WNYC. Though Dietl has made headlines in the race for his attention-grabbing antics – saying he’d like to punch the mayor, and appearing with a full-sized Muppet to mock “Big Bird” Bill de Blasio – Dietl told The New York Times in September to expect a “gentleman.”
“I’m not going to be Wild Man Bo,” he said.
But in a pre-debate prep session in Dietl’s office on Sept. 29, Dietl was every bit of the provocative, unscripted candidate that he’s been throughout the campaign.
“They are two whores of politics,” Dietl said of his two opponents in the debate, de Blasio and Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis. “I shouldn’t use that because they’ll say you’re calling her a whore,” Dietl then said, explaining that he was using the verb form of whore. Then, with a thoughtful pause, he settled on another term. “They are pawns,” Dietl said. “Pawns of politics. All they care about is their next job in politics.”
Dietl sat behind a desk piled high with documents, but he never referenced notes, as he answered possible debate questions fired by his campaign manager, Fred Polsinelli. Dietl often answered at length, in stream of conscious style. One single response veered from crime statistics to his career successes to congestion pricing to a recent controversy in the news.
“Damn you Mr. Mayor, you will not take Christopher Columbus down over my dead body!” Dietl shouted. “That’s a very sensitive thing to Italian Americans … next we should take the friggin’ pyramids down. All my Jewish friends’ relatives died building those damn things. Should we take them down?” Dietl asked. “Should we get rid of the camps in Auschwitz?”
When I asked a question of my own about his comments to the Times, Dietl said he wouldn’t be “Wild Man Bo,” but acknowledged he may need some pharmaceutical help to change his nature.
“Maybe I should take like a tranquilizer or something, or what do you call that stuff that makes you sleep, the vitamin. Malatony or some shit?” he said. “But I really want to be on point and I really want to be specific.”
In preparing for the debate, Dietl’s campaign has prepared for attacks comparing him to President Donald Trump, who also has a penchant for crude language and giving nicknames to opponents.
“I hear everyday from New Yorkers that you remind them of Donald Trump,” Polsinelli asked Dietl. “Are you Donald Trump? Are you Trump Junior?”
“No, I’m sorry to say. My life is a lot different than Donald Trump’s,” Dietl began, telling a story of immigrant parents and having to work on a series of blue collar jobs in factories, restaurants and on the NYPD.
“Do I have your college education? No,” Dietl concludes. “I couldn’t afford to go to college. I had to go out there bust my ass working, Mr. Mayor.”
Dietl voted for Trump in the 2016 general election, and said he has known him for 35 years. But Dietl hasn’t seen him since inauguration day, and he doesn’t want the president’s endorsement. “The people of New York City don’t like him and I don’t want his name on my thing,” Dietl explains.
Dietl failed to earn a major party endorsement, and will be running as an independent on the “Dump the Mayor” ballot line. Though it’s extremely unlikely he will unseat de Blasio, Dietl said he could still find a silver lining in a losing campaign.
“I want to expose what (de Blasio) is and what he’s doing and what direction the city’s going and give people that opportunity to vote for someone that they can believe in!” He said. “If you don’t believe in me, don’t vote for me.”