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TYRRELL: A normal guy runs for New York mayor

- - Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Catsimatidis stands out in forswearing exhibitionism

I know. I know. This puts me out of sync with The New York Times and even the infallible New York Post, but if I were a citizen of New York and not just a monthly visitor, I would be voting for John Catsimatidis, the jolly and jowly rumpled candidate whose name appears on both the Republican and Liberal lines. How he managed this I do not know. Maybe he is a liberal of the old school, one of those who were not squeamish about being American and still believed in the country and the free-market system. Mr. Catsimatidis certainly does. He dropped out of college and became a billionaire. In so doing, he benefited New York City with jobs, food and philanthropy. While the rest of the fantasticos running for high office in the Big Apple have enriched themselves for the most part from the public trough, Mr. Catsimatidis has enriched himself and the city the old-fashioned way — through free enterprise and by paying taxes.

The others in the race for mayor are for the most part figures from a cheap novelist's fevered imagination. Foremost among them is Anthony D. Weiner, a man who left Congress after he was revealed to be an exhibitionist. He went into some kind of therapy, declared for mayor and then exposed himself again and again. He is still running and presumably still in therapy. Then there is Eliot Spitzer, the heir to a vast fortune who had to leave his position as the governor of New York because he was caught paying for high-class prostitutes from his bank account. He is running for comptroller and is frankly self-destructive. If he wins, it will be a close thing whether he destroys himself again before he destroys the business climate of New York. Democrats and Republicans fear him and both are right to do so.

On the other hand, there is Mr. Catsimatidis, who every New Yorker would relish as a neighbor and who many New Yorkers actually have for a neighbor. At least they have someone who is a facsimile of Mr. Catsimatidis. He is as New York as you get. He dresses like New York, sounds like New York and started his business in New York, which is now the Red Apple Group of grocery stores that has extended into the fuel business, the aircraft-leasing business and other enterprises, making him rich (No. 132 on the Forbes list of wealthy Americans) and eager to give back in service to his city.

If you had told me 25 years ago that New York was on the verge of being what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently boasted as "the safest city in America," I would not have believed it. Yet it is. It began with the Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani and continued with the independent Mr. Bloomberg. Now New York is again America's cultural capital and a tourist attraction of the first rank. It also is a city of quiet and clean neighborhoods. Still, it seems to me that the city is in danger of slipping back to 25 years ago, and it will not take long. Those of us blessed by memory can imagine squeegee hustlers, street thugs and more frightening desperados that are even now preparing to fall upon the law-abiding citizenry.

All the Democrats are talking about eliminating or paring back into extinction the stop-and-frisk law that has been so pivotal to a safe New York. They have made New York's second-most successful mayor in recent memory, Mr. Bloomberg, into a highly controversial figure. Mr. Catsimatidis only finds Mr. Bloomberg controversial for some of his nanny-state gestures, such as his war on the 32-ounce bottle of pop. Mr. Catsimatidis would deal with this atrocity in the same way he would deal with other excesses — through education. As for stop-and-frisk, he favors it as he favors keeping the very fine chief of police who made stop-and-frisk public policy, Ray Kelly. Mr. Kelly is another success who, like Mr. Bloomberg, is now perceived by the New York left as a menace to humankind.

Something ominous is gathering strength in the Big Apple. It is the collective mentality of the left-wing ideologue. It has a party line on every issue. That party line has been whipped time and again by Mr. Giuliani's and Mr. Bloomberg's common-sense views. The only candidate with a proven record of achievement with similar common sense views is Mr. Catsimatidis. Moreover, he has the demeanor to run this particular big city with humor. He rolls with the punches and is capable of throwing a few punches himself. Then he smiles. Seeing him up against one of the professional politicians from the Democratic primary in a race for mayor would be a rare pleasure.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.