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'A Vote For Malliotakis Is A Vote For Columbus,' Mayoral Hopeful Would Keep Embattled Statue

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City's controversy over Christopher Columbus statues hit a raw nerve on the day before the Democratic mayoral primary.

A coalition of Italian-American groups has demanded that Mayor de Blasio and all city office seekers state their positions on whether the statue should stay or go.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, they are fed up with de Blasio's refusal to say whether he will save Christopher Columbus from the chopping block.

"We just want to expose all the candidates including the mayor," Angelo Vivolo, President, Columbus Citizens Foundation said.

A coalition of over 30 Italian American groups, representing tens of thousands of voters said it will try to pin de Blasio down by asking him and all candidates for city office to say whether they support keeping or removing the Christopher Columbus statues on public grounds.

Of course he could still duck the question.

"We assume that anyone that does not respond wants to take it down," Vivolo said.

"You're either with us or against us," Joseph Guagliardo said.

Guagliardo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, was so upset that he insisted on meeting at Christopher Columbus drive in Gerritsen Beach to hit home the point that many tributes to Columbus could be in danger.

"People will come out and vote for other candidates. If he doesn't care that he loses the Italian vote, that's totally up to him," Guagliardo said.

At last week's Democratic mayoral debate the mayor refused to be pinned down.

"The right way to handle all the issues that have been brought up is to have a commission," the mayor said.

When pressed for his personal opinion, the mayor wouldn't bend.

"I don't think it makes sense for me to opine on issue by issue," he said.

The mayor appointed the commission late last Friday, but with the controversy continuing to swirl there are now questions about how serious he is.

Mayoral aides said the 18 member panel will not be paid, there is no budget, and presently, no plan to hire a staff.

Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis didn't hesitate to respond.

"A vote for Malliotakis is a vote for Columbus," a spokesman said.

So far, there has been no response from team de Blasio, but the organizations will give the candidates until September 28, to respond. They want to know before the annual Columbus Day Parade.

The primary election is Tuesday. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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