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New York City Republicans had viewed Catsimatidis, who owns grocery store chain Gristedes, as their best hope for the 2021 mayoral race to succeed Bill de Blasio.
Catsimatidis, 72, told Politico he hasn’t come to a final decision on running.
"I may want to run as a Democrat with this ranked-choice thing," he said. New York City adopted ranked-choice voting in 2019, allowing voters to choose multiple candidates in order of preference in the June primary.
Few Republicans are running for mayor in the Big Apple, while dozens of Democrats have already filed paperwork. Andrew Yang made headlines Thursday kicking off his bid for the office.
"This is a Democratic city, and I was a Bill Clinton Democrat. I was a Democrat for a long time," Catsimatidis said. "I’m a middle-of-the-road guy. I can be a conservative Democrat, or I can be a liberal Republican."
Catsamitidis’ daughter Andrea is the chair of the Manhattan Republican Party. The grocery tycoon also owns gas stations and oil refineries as well as his own radio station, where he hosts his own show, "The Cats Roundtable."
He's said he sleeps with the same gun James Bond carried under his pillow to protect his family from Salvadorian gang MS-13. And he once used Clearview, a controversial facial recognition used by law enforcement, to background check a man he saw his daughter on a dinner date with, according to the New York Times. The technology had not yet been made public.
Catsimatidis has given thousands of dollars over the years to political campaigns, both Republican and Democrat, but he was vocal in his support of President Trump’s reelection. "I want to make it clear … Me and my family are supporting @realdonaldtrump 100% We are fighting for the soul of America!" he wrote on Twitter as Trump kicked off his reelection campaign.
But after losing a Republican primary in 2013 for the mayor’s office, Catsimatidis acknowledged the steep odds of any Republican winning in the city roiling with anti-Trump sentiment. Still, he said he thought he could appeal to "common sense" New Yorkers.
"The Democratic party needs somebody with courage to stand up against the crazy Democrats. There’s a lot of moderate Democrats I have a lot of respect for, I’ve supported in the past," he said. "With ranked-choice voting in the primary, who knows what happens? … I think 80 percent of New Yorkers have common sense and want somebody with common sense and a business head."
But Catsimatidis hasn’t disavowed the commander-in-chief, even as the city promised to terminate its contracts with Trump over his handling of the Capitol riots last week.
"If you vote on personality, he loses. If you vote on performance for our country, he did a great job for our economy. He did a great job sealing the border," he said. "He did make mistakes. But he did a lot of good stuff for our country, and he doesn’t deserve the treatment he’s getting right now."
New York City may be known for its progressive politics — President-elect Joe Biden carried Gotham 76 percent to Trump’s 23 percent — but only one of the last three mayors ran as a Democrat, de Blasio. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, led the city through the 1990s and Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected as a Republican before switching to an Independent halfway through his 2001-2013 tenure.
Bronx GOP chair Mike Rendino told Politico that with the president gone, he thought his party might be able to rebrand and shift the focus to conservative priorities throughout the city.
"After what happened last week in the Capitol, it’s time to turn the page and to redefine the Republican party," Rendino said. "The fact [is] that the president, whether you like him or not, was taking all the air out of the room for the last four years. There really was no lane for a Republican to lead here in New York City."
Rendino said he had hoped Catsimatidis would run on the Republican ticket, but if not, he expected to support Fernando Mateo, a Dominican immigrant who leads associations of bodegas and cab drivers.