When you’re running for Congress against a long-time incumbent, you’ll jump at any chance to score free national media attention. Republican congressional candidate Nick Di Iorio, who is running to replace Democrat Carolyn Maloney in New York’s 12th district, knows this. That’s why he held a press conference on Friday with a man dressed as a panda.
“We’re here because this is a serious campaign that has to address, and is addressing, serious issues,” Di Iorio said while standing next to the panda man, according to Business Insider. “But Carolyn Maloney is focused on [other] things. She wanted to adopt a panda. So, I’ve taken care of that.”
Di Iorio was referring to Maloney’s desire to bring a four-year-old giant panda named Han Han to a New York zoo, which she spoke about last week after visiting it in China.
“I fell in love with Han Han,” she told the New York Post. “He’s the perfect age. He grabbed my hand! He held my hand!”
Business Insider asked attendees of Di Iorio’s press conference if the person in the panda suit worked for the candidate’s campaign, but his supporters “insisted he was a real panda from China.”
It wasn’t all fun and games at Di Iorio’s event. As the candidate attacked Maloney for her priorities, the panda began unfurling a massive piece of paper listing Maloney’s alleged failures.
But what about Han Han? Di Iorio was bearish on the prospect of Maloney accomplishing her mission.
“She has no legal authority to bring a panda to New York,” he said. “It has to come from the mayor’s office, here at City Hall. She pretended to do that and the media took the bait. People gave her full-page coverage because of something she couldn’t even do.”
“That’s why we’re here today,” said Di Iorio, who has agreed to star in a reality TV series about candidates running in “unwinnable” races. “We’re making light of the panda because she is not on the job.”