For the first time in a long time, there is an open election for mayor, and both parties may have interesting primaries.
As to whether the primary season will be in June or September remains to be seen. Some of the arguments for moving the primary to June make sense. It takes so much money to be competitive in a primary that a candidate needs more than one month to raise more for the general election.
The problem with the June primary, however, is that it could be an advantage to some candidates. The city’s budget gets passed at that time, and that could mean that candidates close to the budget process could benefit from some good publicity.
The Republican Party, mostly due to the already packed field on the Democratic side, have a few interesting candidates. Giuliani was a national name when he ran in 1989 and 1993, and he came along at a time when the city needed a crime fighter. This year is different. This group of possible Republican candidates is still very much in the introductory phase.
The word in political circles is that the GOP is excited about former MTA chairman Joe Lhota. If Lhota gets into the race, expect some of the other possible nominees to look elsewhere for ballot access.
Other possible Republican candidates include publisher Tom Allon, business magnate John Catsimatidis, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, and nonprofit CEO George McDonald.
This list of candidates is a political junkie’s dream. Candidates like Allon and McDonald, if they were given all of the help that the Republican Party could possible give, would be serious political threats. They both bring that intellectual flare that the last two mayors have had.
McDonald founded The Doe Fund, a widely known nonprofit that trains the homeless and then finds work for them. He has been a regular on the Oprah Winfrey Show and he is a close personal friend of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. McDonald comes from the business sector like Allon and Catsimatidis. One day, he decided to put his efforts into helping the disadvantaged, namely the homeless and formerly incarcerated.
The reason why McDonald would be a good for the GOP is that it would all but silence the chatter that the party is not concerned with the disadvantaged. Running McDonald would basically give the Republicans a makeover in a progressive city, even if he does not win.
Former Mayor Ed Koch said recently that Lhota does not have a chance because the city is so heavily Democratic. But that may be Koch firing a shot across the bow of the S.S. Giuliani, as Lhota was one of Giuliani’s deputies.
People on the inside are talking about Lhota, but you do not win races on the inside. Lhota has to get out there right after he announces that he is running. Republicans have a dual challenge when seeking citywide office. They have to get name recognition, and then they have to convince a left-leaning electorate that they are not the big bad wolf.
The latter is not fair, but it’s true. Can Joe Lhota do both? Many insiders think he should try, and Lhota will be able to get some decent endorsements with his experience at high levels of city government.
So the race begins. Expect candidates to make the obligatory appearances at political clubs. Expect a few endorsements to pop up. What is good for us is that there is a real race heating up – on both sides.