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By Andrea Peyser
June 13, 2016
The Republican who wants to be the next New York City mayor has worn out two pairs of Rockport Oxfords strolling door to door, tieless, in four boroughs, not including Manhattan, hoping to be taken seriously.
"You're the New York Jet!" some star-struck potential voter inevitably gushes over Michel Faulkner, the football player-turned-Christian minister who wants to replace Mayor de Blasio as the city's leader in next year's election.
"I am a proud, black man," Faulkner, 59, tells me. Standing 6 feet 3 1/2 inches tall in socks, he's the rare guy who can nearly look our 6-foot-5 mayor in the eye.
"Andrea, I feel New York City is being bullied by drama, by politics and being divided," he says. "We have a political system that has pretended to be the friend of the poor, exploiting them to get money from the rich. That's horrible! It's like a sellout Robin Hood.
"Black, white, rich, poor people. They all say the same things: ‘We don't want another program, another government solution. We want jobs and opportunity.'"
The first thing one should know about Faulkner is that he pronounces his Frenchified first name "Michael." His mother "was confused if the ‘A' came before the ‘E,' so she left it out altogether," he says.
His son, Michel Jr., pronounces it the same way. (Faulkner has also fathered two daughters.)
Faulkner advocates for a kinder, gentler brand of conservatism, modeled on that of former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg.
After moving to New York City with his family in 1988, this right-winger from Washington, DC, officiated at a funeral in Greenwich Village of a homosexual man who had died of AIDS.
"I wasn't against [gays]," he says. "I love them. God loves them."
He opposes same-sex marriage, but accepts it as the law of the land.
Same goes for abortion rights, which he's also against. "I think we need to help young women who are forced to make that choice to know there are other options."
I support a woman's right to chose abortion, but I think Faulkner is right on this one.
I haven't found a single politico in this city, Democrat or Republican, who doesn't like the physically fit four-time marathon runner. But, "Do I think he can beat the current mayor? No," one GOP power player tells me. Faulkner's work in the 1980s for the late Moral Majority founder, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, at Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia "is the one thing that will come back to haunt him."
Still, now might be a good time to pounce. Federal, state and local investigations into de Blasio's allegedly corrupt fund-raising practices dog the mayor, his cronies and members of his administration. Last month, for the first time since his 2013 election, a majority of city voters - 52 percent - said they don't approve of the job he's doing, while just 41 percent said they do, a Quinnipiac University poll found.
But the loudest hint of many people's disillusionment with de Blasio may have come in a poll released last week, conducted by Bradley Tusk, who managed Bloomberg's successful 2009 re-election campaign. It revealed that if a Democratic mayoral primary were held now, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, a potential challenger, would be virtually tied with de Blasio - drawing 40 percent of the vote compared with the mayor's 41 percent.
Faulkner, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the congressional seat occupied by Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, was a backup for "the best defensive line in the National Football League" during the 1981-82 season until he pulled a hamstring and was cut from the Jets. Today, the Rev. Michel Faulkner is lead pastor of the New Horizon Church of New York in Harlem, which he founded in 2006, and lives on the Upper West Side.
Since announcing in December that he'll seek the GOP mayoral nomination, Faulkner remains the only person so far to throw his hat in the ring, although others have expressed interest in running for mayor in 2017.
Fund-raising has been frustratingly slow. Big-name Republicans at this point have kept their distance.
"Andrea, I think I'll be the next mayor of New York," he insists, before rushing off to knock on more doors - he figures he has already hit 5,000.
A compassionate conservative may be just what this city needs after the Age of de Blasio, who runs a city slipping back into sky-high homelessness and subway crime, plus alleged shenanigans in City Hall.
Good luck, Rev.>