Republican Mayoral Forum

Today Crain’s hosted a candidate forum featuring five Republican mayoral candidates; Tom Allon, Adolfo Carrion, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota and George McDonald.

Here’s a brief “horse race” analysis of how they each helped or harmed their candidacies:

Tom Allon:  He performed well, displaying substantive knowledge and effectively utilizing his resume (“I run a small business” … “I was a public school teacher …”).  He was well received by the audience, but not the best received.  It’s still tough to see how he finds a home with Republican mayoral primary voters.

Adolfo Carrion:  He had some good moments, but appears to be still finding his way in his new Republican world.  It’s difficult to envision this slice of the Republican party, Manhattan business types, supporting a former Bronx Democratic elected official and Obama appointee given their options in the field.

John Catsimatidis:  He was the biggest winner, appearing comfortable with the audience and making well-received statements.  In other forums, especially with Democratic candidates, Catsimatidis has at times appeared a little lost or overwhelmed.  The Democratic candidates, Quinn, Liu, de Blasio, Thompson and Albanese, have all spent lengthy periods in City government and their discussions often focus on specific bills, particular city agencies and mayoral actions.  Catsimatidis comes to those discussions with little background or knowledge and it shows.  Today, the conversation was more general, with basic themes such as “how do we make New York more business friendly” and “how do we deal with the city unions”.  In today’s mostly non-detailed discussion, Catsimatidis effectively used his business resume to appear as substantive as the others.  Additionally, despite being a self-proclaimed “Clinton Democrat” who “fell in love with Bill Clinton”, with about four years as a registered Republican he has more Republican street cred than three of his four competitors.

Joe Lhota:  He gave a solid performance, amply demonstrating his government experience.   His two big challenges were on display, however:  1) will the business community come to support him financially, and quickly, so that he is able to compete financially with John Catsimatidis?  2)  Does his experience, and success, as a top deputy prepare him to be a principal?  George McDonald had a cutting response to Joe Lhota’s discourse on how Lhota would deal with the city unions – essentially, “I’ll hire Joe to deal with them.”  (Lhota received the biggest cheers of the morning when he responded to the moderator’s reference to Rudy Giuliani as acting like a “jerk” in the last year of his administration.  We’ll see if that encourages Joe Lhota to more forcefully identify himself as a Giuliani protege/successor.)

George McDonald:  He arguably had the biggest success by simply being on stage.  He’s been left out of many forums and has not yet gained any real traction.  Being in front of this audience was a big step forward.  He can be a powerful speaker, discussing issues of poverty, race and opportunity from a unique perspective.  He can also be unfocused in his answers.  Today, he displayed both.  With some coaching, and some invitations, he could become a formidable debate presence.

~  John Kenny