Curtis circus: Sliwa battles with poll site workers over cat, campaign jacket at Upper West Side poll site

Election Day photo ops for candidates are usually a breeze — but not for Curtis Sliwa.

The Republican candidate’s appearance Tuesday at Frank McCourt High School on the Upper West Side turned into a circus that featured clashes between Sliwa and poll site workers when he attempted to bring one of his pet cats to the voting booth, and wear a campaign jacket. 

Clutching four-week-old kitten Gizmo and wearing a sling after being struck by a driver last Friday, Sliwa initially met reporters outside the poll site in good spirits that quickly faded.

“Personally, not good. I’m in a lot of pain, but I’m able to get through. I’ve been through much worse as you know in my life. It’s nothing compared to the pain that a lot of our fellow residents are going through today. I’m thinking of all the firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers, especially the healthcare workers that I’ve seen in the last few days and teachers who are fired with no means of income,” Sliwa said, promising to stop mandates and offer back pay if elected. 

Sliwa kisses his catPhoto by Dean Moses

The man in the red beret seemed sullen, as members of the media surrounded him. Still hurting from his collision with a yellow cab last week, Sliwa admitted the run has taken its toll but still he remains steadfast.

“As you know, one of my key platforms for animal welfare is to end the kill shelters. Both I and my wife Nancy brought Gizmo here for the vote this morning. I wish he could vote for because I would win the animal vote when you look at all of the demographics,” Sliwa said, adding, “I know a lot of people have laughed at me that I’m quite eccentric to have 17 rescue cats in a 320 square foot apartment, but as Gandhi said, ‘A society that does not treat its animals well will not treat its human beings well.’” 

But the laughs quickly faded when Sliwa approached the polling site with cat in hand. 

As Sliwa began descend the stairs to vote he was stopped by a poll worker.

“No pets inside!” the worker exclaimed.

Sliwa was defiant but when directed to a sign reiterating the policy he conceded. Still, things only grew worse from there on out. 

Once inside Sliwa was informed that he would need to remove his trademark red jacket in order to vote since it had his campaign name scribbled across it, something that made him red hot.

“They want to strip me?” he said.

Sliwa refuses to remove his jacket. Photo by Dean Moses

The candidate stuck his feet on the ground beside his wife and refused to move. All out disarray broke out as swarms of photojournalists surrounded Sliwa, blocking voter traffic. Amidst the harsh camera flashes, an irritated poll worker lost her cool and began cussing at members of the press.

“Get the F**k out all of you. Get the f**k out!” She roared before the cameras were turned on her. 

Voters pushed through the mayhem all the while Sliwa stood in resistance. “They will have to call the cops,” he said.

Officers observe the debacle.P hoto by Dean Moses

Officers did in fact arrive, yet they remained observant until poll workers gave in and permitted Sliwa to cast his ballot. However, things did not end there.

As Sliwa left the polling site he discovered the “No pets” sign had been removed, leading to another argument.

Sliwa finally gets his ballot. Photo by Dean Moses
Sliwa casts his vote. Photo by Dean Moses

When he asked poll workers what happened to it, one woman simply said: “A dog ate it.” 

“Whatever could go wrong, has gone wrong. Typical Board of Elections, inefficient, incompetent. The wrath of Gizmo was upon them,” Sliwa said, pointing at where the “No pets” sign once was and underscored that this was not the case during early voting. 

Sliwa asks poll workers what happened to the “No pets” sign. Photo by Dean Moses

Sliwa claimed, without evidence other than the circumstances that befell him Tuesday, that the poll site workers had it out for him.

“I’d rather face the gang leaders than face members of the Board of Elections,” Sliwa said, describing the hostility he faced.