Supermarket Guy Wades Into Local G.O.P.

040907 article azi5 Supermarket Guy Wades Into Local G.O.P.Supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis thinks he’s figured out how to make himself Mayor in 2009.

He’s got money, certainly. And he’s got connections: He’s a key bundler for Hillary Clinton and claims her husband, the former President, as a friend.

All he needs now is a political party.

He’s a Democrat, but he’s decided that he needs to run, Bloomberg-like, as a Republican.

Which explains why he showed up at the annual fund-raising dinner for the Republican Party in Queens last week, where he was honored as “a noted philanthropist.”

Mr. Catsimatidis needs them. And he’s sure that they need him.

New York is going in the right direction, he said, “and we certainly don’t want to see New York go backwards.”

The mostly male, mostly middle-aged crowd of about 150 applauded politely.

“You don’t want to see your real estate worth half as much,” Mr. Catsimatidis continued. “You don’t want to see your taxes go up.”

And he said that he had already met with local Republican officials and told them “I will help them do whatever is possible to help build the party.”

After his speech, Mr. Catsimatidis huddled with Queens Republican chairman Phil Ragusa and state party chairman Joseph Mondello, placing a hand on each of their shoulders and reminding them that he was there to help. Before leaving, Mr. Catsimatidis gave them each a business card with his cell-phone number on it.

Leaving his wife and teenage children to their own devices, Mr. Catsimatidis proceeded to work the remaining crowd of gray-haired locals, most of whom make the dinner an annual ritual, and younger party members, some of whom have sportingly mounted hopeless bids for office in recent years.

Then, in a short interview afterwards, he admired his handiwork. “That makes the difference between me and other people,” he said. “I have the ability to do that, versus a lot of other Republicans who don’t. And I think being a people person helps. I like people. I don’t run away from people.”

He declined to say whether he had anyone in particular in mind. (Note: Time Warner C.E.O. and oft-discussed potential Mayoral draftee Richard Parsons is not known as a people person.)

Mr. Catsimatidis hastened to mention that his planned party switch wasn’t merely one of convenience.

“I was a Republican in the 1980’s—a Ronald Reagan Republican,” he said. “I donated to the Republican library. I supported George H.W. Bush. I helped build the chapel at Camp David under George H.W. Bush, and then I was chairman of the New York County dinner two years out of five under Roy Goodman. I’ve done a lot of Republican things.

“And I’m baaaack. How’s that sound?”

Mr. Catsimatidis said that he would officially change his party registration in a week or two. Because, he said, of his “future plans.”