Hours after a White House aide told Congress that Rudy Giuliani sought a presidential pardon for trying to topple American democracy, the ex-mayor—who denied that accusation—greeted a coterie of well-wishers inside a Manhattan Republican club following his son’s concession speech in the gubernatorial primary.

David Brand

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani flashed a thumbs up after his son Andrew Giuliani conceded defeat in the Republican primary for New York governor.

Guardian Angels in red berets ran security for Trump acolytes in red MAGA caps. Curtis Sliwa posed for photos in front of a step and repeat with Peggy Lee blaring from the sound system. And hours after a White House aide told Congress that Rudy Giuliani sought a presidential pardon for trying to topple American democracy, the ex-mayor—who denied that accusation—greeted a coterie of well-wishers inside a Manhattan Republican club. Some even touched his wounded back.

Good cheer permeated the primary night party for Andrew Giuliani, a Republican candidate for governor, well after the results showed him trailing Rep. Lee Zeldin by about 20 percentage points statewide. When the younger Giuliani took the microphone around 10:45 p.m. to concede defeat, he predicted a spate of GOP victories across New York and pledged to back Zeldin in the November general election.

“I’m happy to do whatever I can behind the scenes, publicly, to make sure that this is a big Red Wave,” said Giuliani, who won a plurality of the GOP vote in New York City. “And this Red Wave nationally comes right into the state of New York.”

The everyday Republicans who sipped drinks from a cash bar or sat at tables in a second-floor banquet hall howled along with the VIPs, who had been dining a few floors up inside 3 West Club in Midtown, home of the Women’s National Republican Club. Photos of past presidents lined a stairway, along with paintings of elephants.

It was a relatively big tent.

Libertarians who privately blasted the Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion rights but refused to go on the record mingled with Christian college students who said Giuliani was the “America First” candidate best representing their deep conservative religious values. A former Democrat who said he was turned off by what he considered the party’s leftward drift discussed the merits of Mitchell Lama housing. A guy handed out weed gummies from a messenger bag.

Carlos Gemal, a college student from Maspeth, said he backed Giuliani because he thought he could follow in his father’s footsteps and impose stricter “broken windows policing” to curb crime.

“If he does half the stuff his father did in New York City, he will be successful,” Gemal said.

For Chris Squassi, a wealth manager living on the Upper East Side, the decision to support Giuliani in the four-candidate GOP field also came down to “bloodline.”

“Rudy took New York City [and] he saved New York,” Squassi said.

Recent Supreme Court decisions striking down New York’s gun restrictions and eliminating the last remnants of nationwide abortion protections motivated several voters who spoke with City Limits at the polls Tuesday. But Squassi said those issues will matter little come the Nov. 8 general election.

“That’s a long time away and people are going to forget about it,” he said. “What people care about right now is filling up the tank, going to the grocery store and paying their electric bill.”

In that race, Zeldin, now the Republican nominee, faces off against Gov. Kathy Hochul after the incumbent pulled off an easy win in the Democratic primary Tuesday. It’s an uphill climb for the GOP in heavily-Democratic New York, even amid economic malaise, but ex-Dem Mike Muñoz said his new party can pull off an upset.

Muñoz, an Army veteran who helps other former military members apply for Mitchell Lama housing, said he decided to switch parties after a friend invited him to a meeting of the New York Young Republicans and he felt welcomed “with open arms.”

“I was already a moderate and I don’t like being attacked,” he said of his old party.

He said he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision to strike Roe v Wade, but said differences of opinion were OK among the Republicans he has  joined.

“The majority of people vote for safety and their wallet,” he said.

Still, representatives of the party’s nationalist bent were also out in force, illustrating the affinity for Trumpian politics that Guiliani attempted to harness.

Queens Councilmember Vickie Paladino walked through the venue in a tie-dye dress talking with voters. Young Republican Club President Gavin Wax, who last week defended racist Congressional candidate Carl Paladino in a Newsmax op-ed, stood near Giuliani at the podium. A man in an InfoWars t-shirt with Thomas Jefferson’s “blood of tyrants” quote waited to meet the losing candidate.

And as the election results began to roll in, someone changed the televisions from NY1 to Fox News, where host Laura Ingraham held court before a rapper briefly warmed up the crowd with a call back to the pre-insurrection 2020 election.

“That’s why they’re pushing vote-by-mail, and letting high-profile criminals out of jail,” he rapped over a recorded track. “Trump 2020, say it loud. I wear a MAGA hat and I do it proud.” 

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