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Republican Fernando Mateo, an advocate for taxi drivers and bodega owners, is officially launching his bid for mayor on Wednesday.
“I’m excited. I’m on the road to City Hall,” Mateo, 63, a native of the Dominican Republican, said in an interview. “This is a city of immigrants. This is a city built by immigrants. I want to be their voice.”
Mateo will likely face off in the Republican primary against Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa and financier Sara Tirschwell.
Sliwa wasted no time attacking Mateo, citing his ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pay-to-play fundraising scandal.
“Republicans will not be fooled again with a crooked candidate trying to scheme his way on the GOP line for Mayor. It’s bad enough Mateo raised illegal contributions, but it’s even worse that he did it for the worst Mayor in NYC history, Bill de Blasio, and now is asking local Republican Party leaders for their support as a candidate for Mayor. It’s like Groundhog Day in more ways than one,” said Sliwa.
Sliwa was referring to former state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Democrat who was convicted of trying to buy his way onto the GOP ballot line for mayor in 2013 through a $200,000 bribery scheme.
Matteo — whose wife needed the city’s OK for a women-only livery service — admitted to The Post in 2016 that he raised campaign cash for de Blasio and funneled it through an unemployed Brooklyn woman in what looked like a straw donor scheme.
At the time, Mateo, founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said he had personally solicited a donation for Hizzoner and then had Ahlam Jaoui, an unemployed Bay Ridge woman, take credit for it. She was listed as a bundler who collected 15 donations totaling $18,800 that were given to the de Blasio campaign in January. One of those contributions came from Oscar Herasme, a Florida lawyer, who confirmed he gave $2,500 to the mayor’s 2017 re-election bid — but when asked about Jaoui said, “It wasn’t through her.”
But Mateo on Tuesday dismissed Sliwa’s swipe as a cheap shot, saying he was never accused of wrongdoing.
“In 30 years I’ve been around helping people in this city, and that’s all Sliwa’s got?,” Mateo said.
“That’s Ok. That means I’m relevant. I’m going to focus on the issues”
Mateo claimed he was a “victim” of the de Blasio administration and noted it was de Blasio who personally asked him for a donation.
Federal and state prosecutors looked into de Blasio’s mayor’s shady fundraising practices but did not charge the mayor with any crimes, though they rebuked him.
“This conclusion is not an endorsement of the conduct at issue; indeed, the transactions appear contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws that impose candidate contribution limits,” Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. said.
Mateo’s restaurant on the Hudson River waterfront, La Marina, filed for bankruptcy over massive debt and following the drug arrest of a manager.
He blamed harassment from authorities for its closure.
Aside from fighting for taxi drivers and bodega owners, Mateo cited his work in programs to get guns off the streets and train inmates at Rikers Island.
Mateo first expressed his interest in the mayoralty in December.
The Primary election for both Republicans and Democrats will be held on Tuesday, June 22.
There are some 20 candidates running in the Democratic primary for mayor, among them city Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former de Blasio administration officials Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia, former Obama budget director and housing secretary Shaun Donovan, 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang and not-for-profit executive Diane Morales.
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