As the presidential race enters the home stretch, New York Republicans are already focusing on next year’s campaign to replace term-limited Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last night, several candidates who are planning to run for mayor on the GOP line addressed a crowd of local party stalwarts at the Brooklyn Bar Association. Only two of the potential Republican mayoral hopefuls showed up–Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith, who has been mulling a possible party switch to run for mayor and another newly-minted Republican, Manhattan Media CEO Tom Allon.
DOE Fund founder George McDonald had seemed like he signaled he would attend, but, ultimately, he didn’t make it. Also absent was a man many believe to be a top Republican pick should he enter the race, local super market mogul John Catsimatidis.
Mr. Smith, who kept his remarks very brief, expressed his desire to better acquaint himself with the city’s Republicans.
“You’re going to have a very exciting time come, after November, after this election is done. Hopefully I will come back and have the opportunity to talk a little more about my background, who I am, what I stand for, what my vision is for the city,” Mr. Smith said before hurrying out the door. “But we’ll have a lot more time to get to know each other. I went to school at Jesuit college, I’m a good guy. We’ll talk to you later, take care, God bless.”
Since the deadline to switch party registration passed earlier this month, Mr. Smith, who’s still a Democrat, would need three of the GOP’s five county chairmen to sign off on his candidacy to get on the ballot next year as a Republican. Accordingly, he wasn’t shy about heaping praise upon Kings County Republican Chairman Craig Eaton, who he said “is clearly going down in history as one of the stronger Republican leaders in the State of New York, and you can mark my word.”
Mr. Allon has already made his party switch official and doesn’t need the blessing of the Republican establishment to run. However, he still needs the support of party leaders to avoid a primary challenge and he unsurprisingly praised Mr. Eaton too, but in almost almost biblical terms.
“It’s great to be here in the County of Kings, and our host, whom I affectionately refer to as the King of Kings, Craig Eaton, let’s give him a round of applause,” Mr. Allon said to begin his speech. “Also the King of the Bronx, where is he? Jay Savino, I look forward to being in your home soon.”
Mr. Allon, who still advocates a number of liberal positions, including support for gay marriage, stressed his more ideologically conservative positions on economic regulation, reforming the city’s educational system, and most of all, public safety.
“So, I know we’re all focused on what happens in the next two weeks on the presidential level, but I just want to introduce myself briefly tonight and explain to you why it’s important that we start focusing on 2013,” he continued. “You know, our city has been safe for the past 20 years and we’ve been lucky to have Republican mayors for the past 20 years keeping our city safe. I see no reason why we can’t keep our string on next year and have our sixth Republican mayor in a row. And I plan to be that person.”
Although he stressed he would like to be the official GOP pick, Mr. Allon vowed to be in the race even if the Republican chairmen decide on another standard-bearer. After both candidates spoke, we asked Mr. Eaton what he made of Mr. Allon’s intentions to campaign for the GOP nomination come hell or high water. Mr. Eaton had kind words for Mr. Allon, but he made it clear the party leadership wants other candidates to get out of the way if the leaders settle on another option.
“You want to know something? I respect that, but I think that this is his first time running,” Mr. Eaton replied. “Anyone who’s looking to run needs to look outside of the box. This race is too important. We need to find the candidate that’s going to win. If one of the people who have expressed interest in running, if there’s a consensus that there’s another candidate–which by itself shows that candidate has a superior chance of winning–I think the other candidates need to look and say, ‘It’s about the party, we need to step aside and look at other opportunities.'”
And, while keeping their names close to his vest, Mr. Eaton indicated that these other potential contenders might soon step up to the plate.
“I think this is just the beginning of the mayoral candidates drive,” he said. “I think we’re going to hear from a lot of other people over the next couple weeks. And we’re looking forward to it. We will have a good candidate on the Republican line.”