NEW YORK — From one billionaire mayor of New York City to another? Businessman John Catsimatidis is hoping so.
Catsimatidis, whose business interests include grocery stories, oil and real estate, announced his entrance into the mayoral race Tuesday on the steps of City Hall.
The Republican joins an increasingly crowded field of GOP, Democratic and other candidates seeking to succeed the term-limited, Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Enthusiastic and frank, Catsimatidis portrayed himself as someone with both CEO experience that would help him run the nation’s biggest city and a background as a regular New Yorker, enabling him to relate to its residents.
“It’s not that I’m only a businessperson. I’m from 135th Street. I’ve never forgotten where I came from,” he said, speaking to a crowd of a few dozen supporters. “I’m not a Mike Bloomberg billionaire. I’m not wearing a $5,000 suit.”
Catsmatidis (pronounced kat-sih-mah-TEE-dihz) also said he differs from Bloomberg on some specific matters, including the mayor’s unsuccessful plan some years ago to charge motorists driving in the busiest parts of Manhattan during peak hours.
But he credited the three-term mayor with attracting businesses and presiding over a drop in crime, among other improvements.
“The world has confidence in our city,” he said. “We have to maintain that confidence.”
Catsimatidis, whose fortune Forbes pegged at $3 billion in September, said he would spend “whatever we have to spend” on his campaign “if it’s going our direction.”
The Democrat-turned-Republican considered but ultimately abandoned a mayoral bid in 2009. He said he’s “in it to win” this year.
Other Republicans who have thrown their names into the ring or are likely to include former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota; Tom Allon, a publisher; and George McDonald, the head of a nonprofit that helps the homeless. Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, a former Democrat who is now unaffiliated, might run as an independent on the Republican line.
Announced and likely Democratic contenders include former City Councilman Sal Albanese; Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; Comptroller John Liu; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.
While registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6 to 1 in the city, no Democrat has held the mayor’s office in nearly 20 years.
Catsimatidis’ family left Greece for the United States when he was an infant. He began his career in the grocery business and branched out into oil, real estate and other areas.
Should he win, he’d plan to follow his wealthy predecessor’s lead in working for $1 a year – sort of.
“I was a grocer – I’ll work for 99 cents,” he quipped.