Over the summer, for my ‘Mitt Loves N.Y.’ series, John Catsimatidis was one of the few profiled donors that reached out to me for an interview. We conversed over the phone about his $50,000-plus donation to Restore Our Future – the super PAC that tried (and failed) to guarantee Romney a seat in the Oval Office.
On the FEC filings, the money came from Catsimatidis’s United Refinery Company, a gas pumper that boasts a $2.3 billion or so profit. He told me that “the Obama administration was 100% wrong” for not drilling nearly enough and proposing a gas tax (which never really happened); in other words, his donation to Mitt Romney came with the stipulation, ‘Drill, baby, drill.’ So much for that.
The NYU-dropout-turned-supermarket-and-oil-billionaire described himself on his website as “the personification of the American Dream.” And he may be right: his family came to Harlem from Greece when he was young and, when he was in his early 20s, he opened a small supermarket Uptown. Within a few years, he would turn it into the Red Apple and Gristedes empire we know all too well. The company’s net worth is now somewhere near $4 billion or so.
Oh yeah, and, today, he’ll file papers to conduct an exploratory committee for the Mayorship of New York City next year.
Echoing a Romney-like message, Mr. Catsimatidis told the Daily News that he wants “to do [his] part to have New York go to the next step” since he’s already “made it to the top.” This managerial platform is exactly what the NYC Republicans are looking for; hence why MTA chairman Joe Lhota has given a mayoral run much thought. That inclination comes against the Democrats favoring social advocates in high City Hall positions, like Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio.
But, in terms of political aspirations, Mr. Catsimatidis is a former Democrat who entered business and left successful. Therefore, he’s now on the Republican ticket – sound like anyone familiar? He has one rule, though: if NYPD commish Ray Kelley runs, he will back out.
He has the support of Manhattan GOP head, Daniel Isaacs, but, unlike Bloomberg, he will actually accept donations from the general public if he were to run. Also, unlike Bloomberg, he runs a billion-dollar refining company and used a super PAC to funnel thousands of dollars into oily dreams, not same-sex marriage initiatives. So there’s a few differences to be made between him and the Hozziner.
And this is not the first time Catsimatidis has mulled over a mayoral run. In 2009, he was seriously considering it until Bloomberg laid down the third-term idea. But, next year, no Bloomberg; only those who want to face him in contested runs: “I’ll primary anyone who’ll primary me,” he told the News. Primary as a verb, not a noun.
Will a billionaire Mayor hand the reigns over to another billionaire? Fire up the bankrolls.