By Sabina Mollot
Eliot Rabin, the Republican candidate in this race, is tired of being thought of as a token candidate for his party.
“I’m in it to win it,” he said this week, while also lamenting he hasn’t gotten much support from his own party other than an early endorsement from Manhattan GOP.
Besides, said the longtime New Yorker and South Carolina native, the campaign has been going well in that he has gotten some support from the Democrat voters he’ll need to stand a chance against a party fixture like Maloney. Donations as well as interest for his campaign have come from his customers at the two Upper East Side Peter Elliot clothing boutiques he’s owned for decades as well as from his fellow alumni from Citadel Military College in South Carolina and neighbors at his building on 81st Street.
“The first question out of their mouths is, ‘Are you a Democrat or are you a Republican?’” he admitted. “But as you’re talking to people, they say they’re Democrats, but they’re not really. They have their own views. After they’ve been speaking, (you can see) they’re independent.”
He also doesn’t care much for labels and just as easily sees himself as a “left wing Republican,” although, he acknowledged, “that confuses them.” Sometimes he’ll ask voters, “What if I told you I was a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat?”
When speaking with him about their concerns, gun control has come up a lot. Despite being a gun collector himself, Rabin is, like Maloney, pro-gun control and staunchly anti-NRA. “I don’t believe the Second Amendment means what the NRA says it means,” he said. “The Constitution says you have the right to bear arms in a well-organized militia.”
Another issue that comes up is Rikers Island, which Rabin is against closing.
“It’s a real estate play,” he said of the plan to shut it down. “It’s (currently) safe. It’s on an island. They want to put jails in the boroughs but not Staten Island. Local boards are going to have to approve it, but they’re not going to approve it. They’re going to fight it all the way. Why are you doing this? It frees up Rikers Island for all the real estate developers. It should be cleaned up, fixed up.”
He said he is actually more concerned about immigrants in government detention. “Putting kids in immigrant camps — this is not America,” said Rabin.
In a previous interview, Rabin also said he wants to bring back the draft, and believes immigrants should be able to earn citizen status by serving in a military branch.
Education was also a motivating factor for Rabin to run. “We’re in a city that spends almost $30 billion on education and teachers have to ask children to ask their parents to bring pencils,” he said. Previously, Rabin has also said he dislikes how public schools nowadays are reminiscent of prison buildings.
Naturally, he’s hoping voters will see past the party and see him as a veteran as well as a veteran small business owner, who’d like to abolish the city’s (recently reformed but still existing) Commercial Rent Tax that’s applied to businesses from Chambers to 96th Streets in Manhattan.
“It’s unconstitutional and discriminatory,” said Rabin, who said he just got a tax bill of over $40,000 for his two shops. “There are almost 2,200 empty storefronts in (the city). When you walk on 81st and First, every now and then you’ll see a store open, Prada, Gucci.”
An upscale bag shop next to his boutique has just closed, as has a nearby Chloe shop. “It makes people frightened and it’s disastrous to small businesses.”
On Halloween, he’ll be engaging Maloney in a debate, and said some people have been trying to bait him to trash talk her. But, he added, “That’s not my game. I know what I stand for, tolerance and civility.”
Nevertheless he had some praise for a former opponent of Maloney’s, primary challenger Suraj Patel who got over 40 percent of the vote, even beating the incumbent in the Brooklyn part of the 12th Congressional District. “He did quite well,” said Rabin.
As for his own campaign, as of Friday, Rabin said he has about $12,000 in his war chest.
Rabin added, “Win or lose, I need to get my voice out there so maybe we’ll wake everybody up.”