John Catsimatidis, Republican Mayoral primary

This year’s Republican primary for mayor is an interesting race, with the two top candidates being John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota. A third candidate, George McDonald, is also in the running.

Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani and most recently head of the M.T.A., brings a track record of having worked in New York City government at a high level. He played important roles helping the city recover from both 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.

On the negative side, we well remember Lhota’s acting as Giuliani’s designated attack dog in 1999 against the Brooklyn Museum forcing it to remove its controversial “elephant dung Madonna” artwork at the threat of losing city funding. We support freedom of expression, artistic and otherwise. This particular incident sticks with us (no pun intended), because this is the greatest city in the world, and the Village and the Downtown area is home to so many artists and so much art, and has so much cultural history and vibrancy. We need an open-minded mayor who doesn’t stifle creativity and free expression.

McDonald has done great work with the Doe Fund, getting ex-convicts back on their feet by providing them jobs and housing. Nevertheless, he hasn’t done enough to distinguish himself from the rest of the field.

Catsimatidis’s candidacy has a lot to like, and his personal story is inspirational. He’s a self-made man who grew up in an immigrant family on E. 135th St. in East Harlem. Through hard work and a shrewd business sense, he has built a supermarket empire, Gristedes, with 2,000 employees in the city, and another 6,000 employees at his Red Apple convenience stores located outside of the city. He also took over a troubled Canadian oil business and has made a fortune out of it. His business sense would be a plus for New York, just as Bloomberg’s has been.

In fact, Catsimatidis calls himself the “common man’s Bloomberg,” in that he vows he will never forget his roots and where he came from. His work raising funds for and being a strong supporter of the Police Athletic League for 30 years is a testament to this.

Coming from outside of politics — just as Bloomberg did — can be a plus for him, since he won’t be beholden to political allegiances and special interests.

Above all, Catsimatidis is a pragmatist. For example, he has said he would increase vocational education, to help ensure that youths receive jobs training and a path toward bettering their lot in life.

He’s a plainspoken man who is open to ideas. If there is a disagreement, he believes in — just as he has done in his business career — simply pulling all the parties and working things out.

Above all, Catsimatidis believes in keeping our city safe and secure, and is a strong defender of the police. This is vitally important in an era of terrorism.

Ultimately, he’s not afraid to stand by his convictions, and is an independent thinker, beholden to no one. Downtown Express supports John Catsimatidis for mayor in the Republican primary.

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