Yes Virginia, there is a New York City GOP. At least that is what it will look like today when New York’s Republicans, outnumbered 6 to 1 by city Democrats, vote for their candidate in November’s mayoral election. On the ballot will be Joe Lhota, John Catsimatidis, and George McDonald, who differ in experiences but share common ground on pro-business policies, promoting the middle class, terrorism prevention, the NYPD, and charter schools.
Its a David-and-Goliath (or more appropriately an Upper West Side vs. Staten Island) battle, but not an impossible one. Republicans would do well to emphasize the Republican Party’s role in cleaning up New York City during the early 1990s, the middle-class advantages afforded by pro-business and low-tax policies, and unpopular Bloomberg policies that were supported by the Democrats. Not to be overlooked, the Republicans also have a home-court advantage. Lhota and Catsimatidis grew up in the Bronx and Harlem, respectively, whereas Democratic front-runners Bill De Blasio and Christine Quinn up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Great Neck, Long Island respectively. (Sorry kids, Long Island does not count as the city.) No matter who is elected, Republicans can guarantee their candidate won't be lacking in bravery.
The GOP's current GOP leading candidate is Joe Lhota, a former Giuliani administration official and chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority from 2011 to 2012. Under Giuliani’s two terms, Lhota wore several hats including New York City’s budget director, deputy mayor for operations, and liaison to the White House and Congress, and was responsible for coordinating the city’s response following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Lhota’s strong points in the general election include his city government experience and connection to Giuliani’s clean-up of New York in the early '90s. Republicanism aside, his weak points include that he raised the subway fares and bridge tolls, which many are still angry about, and also recently called the Port Authority Police “mall cops.” Several news outlets also say he came off as an “annoyed schoolteacher” during the debates.
The other major GOP candidate is John Catsimatidis, the self-made billionaire CEO of New York City’s beloved food chain Gristedes. He also owns Red Apple Group, a New York based real-estate company, United Refinery Company, a New York Greek newspaper, The Hellenic Times, as well as several other business ventures.
Catsimatidis’ strong points include his reputation as an entrepreneur, his Greek heritage, and his disassociation with city politics. His weak points with Republicans include previous donations to the Clintons, former Mayor Dinkins, and potential opponent De Blasio, as well as his somewhat bizarre responses in the mayoral debates.
McDonald is the founder of the Doe Fund, a 501(c)3 organization that helps provide jobs and housing to the incarcerated and homeless. He started the non-profit, which helps more than 1,000 individuals each day, back in New York’s worst days in the 1980s and has since won numerous awards for public service.
His strong points include his positive image after years of public service as well as business acumen from the private sector. His weak points are that he didn’t meet the Campaign Finance Board’s qualifications for the “leading-contender” debate and trails in the polls.