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Meet the Republican Harlem Pastor Taking on 'Bully' De Blasio for Mayor

By Dartunorro Clark | April 19, 2017 4:20pm
 Michel Faulkner.
Michel Faulkner.
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Michel Faulkner

HARLEM — “I don’t like bullies."

That's what Michel Faulkner points to as the main motivation behind his plan to run against Bill de Blasio in the mayoral election later this year.

Faulkner, a Republican, said that of the litany of issues leading the longtime local pastor to throw his hat in the race, the chance to take on an incumbent he believes borders on being a socialist stood out.

“The bullying happens when the city is divided — it’s called divide and conquer — and I believe that [de Blasio] has tried to divide people not just along party lines or gender or socioeconomics, but also ideology, isolating himself as the progressive hero,” he explained.

Faulkner, 59, ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for then-U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel's congressional seat. His resume includes working a pastor in the city for the past 30 years, having founded the New Horizon Church of New York in Harlem in 2006, and playing one season for the New York Jets in the early '80s.

Now, he’s hoping to position himself as the antidote to de Blasio’s self-proclaimed progressivism.

“We want to see everyone have an opportunity, and we don’t want to see the government try to guarantee that,” Faulkner said. “I can say, ‘Hey everything that you’re talking about has not worked for us — and you specifically, Mr. Mayor, broke your promises.”

Of the main issues Faulkner wants to address are homelessness — "It’s a failure and we’re not addressing the real needs” — $17 billion in unmet capital needs of the New York City Housing Authority, "ballooning" city budgets, and the failure of the city to award more contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Some of his policy proposals include a plan to create cooperative agreements for longtime tenants in NYCHA housing and putting an end to "Broken Windows" policing. He also wants to retool the NYPD's neighborhood policing efforts, because he said relationships between the police and communities — specifically communities of color — can happen organically without pushing the program on officers.

Faulkner is also in favor of charter schools and wants to see their structure replicated in public schools.

“We’ve got to be able to do a better job of managing our schools and allowing the performance to be where it needs to be,” he said.

The candidate believes de Blasio was “on the ropes” before the election of Donald Trump, pointing to high-profile corruption probes of the mayor’s fundraising activities, which prosecutors said "violated the spirit of the law."

“He needed a villain,” Faulkner said. “When you’re an activist and not a real leader, you need a villain to elevate your profile. He’s using Donald Trump to elevate his profile to the detriment of New York City.

“Regardless of how you feel about Donald Trump, Donald Trump did not cause the problems we’re facing in New York City," he continued. "Bill de Blasio did."

He accused the mayor's agenda of veering into socialism, adding, “that’s not where were are as a city. We are entrepreneurial.

“I’m running to push back on that,” Faulkner said.

In response, a spokesman for the mayor cited de Blasio's efforts to expand pre-K, raise worker wages and build affordable housing, as well as the city's record-low crime rate and record-high jobs rate. The spokesman also stated that the mayor has set a "bold" goal of awarding 30 percent of city contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses, and that "thousands" of homeless New Yorkers have found affordable homes during his tenure.

Faulkner said he understands that the city leans heavily Democratic, but has elected Republican mayors in the past and can appeal to groups across the city.

So far, his campaign has raised more than $64,000, according to campaign finance records. Upstart GOP candidate Paul Massey has raised just under $2.5 million.

Faulkner is a self-described “Frederick Douglass Republican,” meaning he’s about “self-determination, individual responsibility, smaller government and constitutional freedom,” he explained.

“I just don’t believe the government can give us everything that I need,” he said. “I want to offer a hand-up, not a handout.”