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One of the things that made life so tough for Ed Koch—our last three-term mayor—in his final years in office was the damage done by Democratic political bosses and their cronies who helped him win the election. In Bloomberg's case, the threat is on the right.
Golden, a conservative Republican from Bay Ridge, represents the flip side of many of the issues that the mayor has cared most about in office—things like the dangers of smoking, gun safety, pork-barrel spending, pension giveaways, and the perils of political patronage. But none of that has stopped the former cop and catering hall owner from bonding with the mayor and serving as his biggest friend in the Grand Old Party. Make that his only Republican friend, at least in these parts.
As last week's meeting with the five Republican county leaders showed, things remain frosty between Bloomberg and party officials. It's not hard to see why. Two years ago, when the mayor publicly renounced his Republican registration, he went out of his way to trash the GOP as just another party that doesn't "stand for anything." That rubbed a few people the wrong way. Say what you will about Republican orthodoxy, most members like to think that the party of Lincoln has a creed worth defending. The even bigger insult was that these slams were coming from a guy who was twice handed the party's nomination, even though everyone knew the media mogul was a Democrat who was switching affiliation solely to get the GOP line.
Part of the tab for the mayor's hump 'em and dump 'em attitude came due last month when Team Bloomberg began shopping for a ballot line for this fall's election. Self-respecting Republican leaders issued statements insisting that this time around, they won't be pushovers. That is, all except for Marty Golden, arguably the city's most powerful elected Republican official at the moment.
"At the end of the day, there is no one who can do more for the Republican party and the city than Mike Bloomberg," Golden told the Times. He was even blunter when asked about it by the Observer's Azi Paybarah: "I think it's a no-brainer," said Golden.
Even to the likes of Staten Island Republican chairman John Friscia—viewed as the most amenable of the party's chieftains to hosting Bloomberg Part Three on the GOP line—that kind of talk is infuriating. "I think that's great for Marty telling everybody how brilliant he is, and how stupid we are," Friscia snapped last week just before Bloomberg's meeting with party leaders in Manhattan. "I think he is out of line for making these comments. They have been wholly and totally inappropriate."
In fact, the Senate's newly minority GOP caucus is the closest thing Bloomberg has to a Republican fan club. But for most members, it's a strictly monetary relationship. Even as he was dissing the party in general, Bloomberg remained the single largest contributor to Senate Republicans—donating $500,000 last year to their losing effort to hold onto majority status. Last month, according to a well-wired GOP source, Senate minority leader Dean Skelos got word that the Bloomberg spigot will shut down if the city's Republicans don't come across with a ballot line for the mayor. That edict appears to be one of the motivations behind Golden's hard-nosed push to get the mayor the Republican nod.
And despite their many reservations, now that city GOP leaders have had a chance to air the bad blood at last week's sit-down, the smart money says the mayor gets the line. As one veteran city political hand put it: "Where else are they going?"
The difference is that, this time around—assuming his poll numbers don't collapse between now and election day—the billionaire businessman who twice sold himself to voters as someone whose wealth and independence keeps him free of grubby politics is going to carry some heavy political debt into a third term. And as things stand now, no one has a better chance of collecting on those Bloomberg IOU's than Marty Golden.
Here's a checklist—call it a Golden Alert—of how Bloomberg's most stalwart ally might try to collect.
Right now, Golden's Senate payroll includes Jerry Kassar—chairman of Brooklyn's Conservative Party—as a $98,000-a-year aide. Golden has had Conservative Party backing ever since his days in the City Council. Before Bloomberg reversed course and opted to seek a third term, Kassar was widely touting Golden as a likely Republican mayoral nominee.