“Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ry way you look at it, you lose”
Humming this on my way to the 92Y to see the candidates for this year’s election for New York Mayor. No Simon and Garfunkel, no funny seventies hair or woolly jumpers, but a very white, middle class audience in the Upper East Side of Manhattan on a bitterly cold Thursday night. Sold out auditorium with rich wood panelling and Washington and Jefferson in large gold leaf lettering above the stage. Five Democrats, three Republicans, all men bar one. The formidable Democrat, Christine Quinn, current City Council Speaker oozes confidence, has a hard edge to her tough oratory and splits the audience with her Marmite appeal. The four Democrat guys all kind of merge into one with their opposition to Mayor Bloomberg, his money, his remoteness from the people and his lack of attention to education.
The Republicans are more colourful and interesting. I was interested to see George MacDonald, the guy who set up the DOE Fund, which I’ve written about before. He lives just down the street, it seems and bemoaned the development of the 2nd Avenue subway and the blasts that shake the buildings. He did seem a bit lost at times, not answering the questions but has a real passion for getting the poor and homeless into work and providing affordable housing. Not sure he’s the man for the job, doesn’t seem hard enough to take the knocks of City Hall. I was intrigued to see John Catsimatidis the owner of Gristedes, the 24 hour supermarket near me. He’s a big guy with a lot of money, the closet thing to Bloomberg in terms of wealth, but no one will be able to spell his name, I certainly struggled here. The other Republican is Joseph Lhota, who previously ran the MTA (NY transit) and came across as the most credible candidate with facts and figures at his fingertips but lacking any charisma.
I learnt that Mayor Bloomberg introduced a ‘bull pen’ into City Hall to emulate a trading floor with him sitting in open plan with all his deputies and aides. I also learnt that New York is a Democrat city but hasn’t elected a Democrat Mayor for 20 years. After tonight, I predict, based on very little and gazing into crystal ball, that Christine Quinn will get the Democrat nomination, Joseph Lhota will get the Republican nomination and through sheer force of character and ability to talk, Quinn will win. Let’s wait and see, there’s 8 months to go.