GOP voters have a tough choice to make of which candidate they’d put up as a against the eventual Democratic nominee for Mayor of New York City. On the one hand, Joe Lhota has the experience and the temperament to serve as mayor on day one, but in a City whose Republican voters are outnumbered by a 6-1 ratio, the Republican needs a chest full of coins to at the very least get out his message to voters.
On the other hand, John Catsimatidis has the money to wage a campaign against the Democratic nominee for mayor and has brilliant ideas on how to keep the city safe and move it forward. There’s one hurdle though, voters don’t seem to take him seriously.
In an interview with the WSJ, Dan Isaacs, chairman of the New York Republican County Committee, admitted that Mr. Catsimatidis is “not your conventional candidate” in terms of his “mannerisms and appearance.”
As an example, the WSJ reporter points out an appearance by Mr. Catsimatidis last Monday, where the candidate wore a dark suit with a large, eye-catching stain.
“Yeah, he’s got a dirty suit and maybe he’s got a stain on his tie or his shirt. But you know what? He’s real,” Mr. Isaacs said. “And I’d rather have a guy like that than someone who’s perfectly coiffed and is full of bull—. And that ain’t John. John calls it like he sees it. He’s honest.”
At his campaign launch on the steps of City Hall, Mr. Catsimatidis pointed to his suit as an example he’s not a Michael Bloomberg billionaire. “I’m not wearing $5,000 suits,” he said. He didn’t even shy away from showing it off, when Hunter Walker from Politicker (now TPM) came close to see what make the suit was.
“I think it was $99 at Joseph A. Banks,” he said. “So, I’m not wearing a $5,000 suit and this is what I wear every day.”
Mr. Catsimatidis is currently trailing Mr. Lhota in the GOP primary by a 6-11 point margin, but has managed to turn the race into a horse race.
Speaking to the WSJ, Mr. Catsimatidis said he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to win City Hall. “Money is not an object. It’s getting the message across to everybody,” he said, estimating he will ultimately spend about $8 million on the primary and, presuming he wins, as much as $19 million in the November general election.
As of early August, he’d spent about $4 million on his campaign, roughly 2.5 times the amount spent by Joe Lhota. Campaign finance records show Mr. Lhota with roughly $1.7 million cash on hand.
Bill Cunningham, a former communications director for billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg who helped steer Mr. Bloomberg to victory in 2001, told the WSJ that Mr. Catsimatidis faces an uphill battle in the primaries since primary voters tend to be more conservative.
“He’s running against a lifelong Republican,” Mr. Cunningham said. “On resume, and temperament and experience, [voters] may look at Catsimatidis and say, ‘He has wonderful experience in the business world but Lhota has much more experience in government and politics.’”
In order to counter that impression, Mr. Catsimatidis has argued on the campaign trail that Mr. Lhota is mean-spirited and has a bad record of raising taxes, by pointing out that as MTA head Mr. Lhota raised toll prices that ultimately hurt New Yorkers who struggle to make ends meet.