We knew this moment would come, but still, it arrives with a little sting. Incredibly far-fetched “independent Republican” mayoral candidate John Catismatidis was defeated last night by Joe Lhota, his more sane, less-fun-to-write-about opponent. But he wasn’t defeated by all that much: Lhota took 52.5 percent of the vote, while Catsimatidis took 40.8, and virtual unknown George McDonald trailed with just 6.7. And while it’s probably not all surprising that Cats, a perpetual, self-financed candidate, won’t be getting anywhere near City Hall, we’re still feeling a little wistful. Let’s all reminisce over some photos and feel our feelings together, shall we?
On Monday night, the Cats campaign was upbeat, with campaign spokesperson Rob Ryan telling us, “We are feeling very confident.” Nor did they plan to endorse another candidate in the event that Cats didn’t take the Republican brass ring, he added. “We have no plans on endorsing anyone else since we expect to be the nominee.” It was sweet. It was…optimistic. It was the same thing Ryan predicted in 2009, the last time Catsimatidis ran for mayor.
By election night, though, Ryan and the rest of Team Cats were furious, accusing Lhota’s crew of sending out “fake robo-calls” to confirmed Catsimatidis voters. Ryan didn’t immediately know the content of the calls when we reached him by phone around 8:30 p.m., but said the voters were reporting getting “15 to 20” of them an hour. Ryan said they recounted a “goofy voice” reminding them to vote Cats. He said the phone number at the end of the message, which each robo-call is required to provide, was reportedly a credit card company.
“Who else would it be but Lhota?” Ryan fumed. “Why would anybody care except Lhota? This is a common voter suppression dirty trick. They identify who our voters are and then try to piss them off so much so they don’t vote. It’s also criminal.”
The Lhota campaign didn’t respond to our request for comment, but told at least two other news outlets the allegations were “absolutely false.” We heard nothing more about the calls from either side. Around 11:15 last night, looking near tears, Catsimatidis conceded the race.
“I want to congratulate youse for working so hard,” he told his supporters, flanked by his wife Margo and former Governor George Pataki, for some reason. He promised, “Next time, I’ll work harder.” Soon after, Margo briefly took over the mic, prompting a round of unkind speculation on Twitter that she was “sloshed,” before Pataki gently stepped in.
And although Cats wasn’t a winner last night, he was the clear favorite for a variety of important constituencies, including tiny dogs:
Gentlemen with tons of campaign swag:
And of course, adorable in-office baby tigers:
And if tiny dogs and tiger cubs and gentlemen who can’t see because their sunglasses are covered with the words ‘I [HEART] CATS” could vote, last night would have looked very different. Or if he were running for mayor of Staten Island, where actually, no joke, he did extremely well.
So goodbye for now, dearest Cats. Somehow, some way, we just know you’ll be back. Probably running for mayor. That seems to be your thing.