Monday, January 19, 2009

John Catsimatidis Weighs Mayoral Run

Let us say right off the bat that John Catsimatidis is our client, and a friend for over twenty five years-so anything that we might say will be taken with a grain of salt as self serving. That being said, John brings a lot of really good qualities to the upcoming mayoral race; that is, if he decides to run this time around. Some of these qualities are raised in last week's City Room profile.

As City Room points out: "In a race dominated by money — Mr. Bloomberg is expected to spend at least $80 million — Mr. Catsimatidis is likely to be the only other candidate with pockets deep enough to match the mayor’s spending dollar for dollar. Mr. Catsimatidis said that if he decided to run for mayor this fall, he would challenge Mr. Bloomberg in the Republican primary. Mr. Bloomberg has not officially said which party line he will seek, but it is widely believed he will run as a Republican or an Independent, or perhaps both.

But it's not only the money that makes Catsimatidis attractive; you see, John is the ultimate New York City success story-an immigrant's son who opened up one store and turned it into a multi-billion dollar empire. What separates him starkly from Mike Bloomberg, is John's affinity for the city's neighborhoods and people. He knows what every small business owner knows; high taxes and over regulation is the greatest threat to New York's economic vitality-and the success of the city long term resides in the innovation and vitality of our neighborhoods.

Catsimatidis is also someone who hasn't really ever left his immigrant roots-and is as comfortable in a local coffee shop as he is at the Regency for a power breakfast. He won't be someone looking to build costly monuments at the expense of local communities. As one blog commenter pointed out: "Wait a minute, Alyssa. Catsimatidis has been in NY his entire life and worked his way up literally from the bottom. He and Bloomberg are 2 TOTALLY different people if you read their bios. This guy doesn’t seem to care that much about $…. you think just maybe it’s somebody who just cares about NY…."

The city needs a real innovator-and nothing in the past seven years gives us any indication that Mike Bloomberg either gets it, or that his skill set elevates him into the atmosphere of Papal Infallibility. For the city to revive, it needs a leader who understands, both the larger fiscal issues, as well as the reality that real economic growth will only occur when the size and scope of government is reduced-something that Mike Bloomberg has never grasped.

Which brings us to the Republican Party challenge. Will the party, left in the lurch by Bloomberg's opportunistic labeling in 2001, be so desperate that it will accede to the mayor's millions again in 2009? In yesterday's NY Daily News, Liz Benjamin raises this issue: "Mayor Bloomberg appears to have his own Gang of Three problem. Much like new state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's leadership post was held hostage for two months by three renegade lawmakers who refused to back him, Bloomberg's bid to land the Republican line for his re-election bid could be blocked by a trio of obstinate GOP county chairs. Since the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent mayor ditched the GOP in June 2007 to prepare for a never-realized run for President, he now needs permission from three of the city's five GOP party chairs to run on the ballot line he had for his 2001 and 2005 campaigns."

Will he get it? Or will the party anoint Catsimatidis as the more natural heir to the party's core principles? As Liz tells us: "The three Republican chairmen would love nothing more than to support John Catsimatidis for mayor," a highly-placed GOP source said. "If we could all agree on a Democratic candidate, we might even back him." Catsimatidis, a Democrat-turned-Republican supermarket mogul, recently met with all five GOP county chairs and said he will continue to explore a possible mayoral run. Since he switched parties, Catsimatidis won't need permission to run as a Republican."

This won't be easy, since the the mayor's money is beguiling, to say the least. But perhaps this time the part is actually looking for something to stand for-and we don't mean Mike Bloomberg's monumental ego: "Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton wouldn't rule out the possibility of endorsing a Democrat, although he said that's "unlikely." Eaton confirmed the three Republican chairs are "united" in their desire to back a candidate who will "grow the party" and help win back seats in Albany before the next round of legislative redistricting."

If true, Catsimatidis is the more attractive candidate. In our view, the backing of Bloomberg will simply hasten the Republican Party's slide into political oblivion.