“God has been good to us. New York City has been good to us. That’s why I want to give back," Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis told The Jewish Voice in an interview published this week. "I think every successful citizen should give back. Remember what John Kennedy said – ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’ People don’t believe that anymore. I want to give back [because] in the end I don’t need any money, I don’t need anything. Bloomberg works for a dollar – I’m going to work for 99 cents."
Despite lagging in the poll behind Joe Lhota, the generally viewed frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Catsimatidis still believes he can overcome that hurdle. “Joe Lhota can’t win, in my opinion because he’s a pure Republican. Me, I just got started a few weeks ago. We’re going to go out and get name recognition out there… But I’m a combination pro-business Republican, but I am also a Clinton Democrat. And a fusion ticket could win in this election."
While Catsimatidis thinks "Mayor Bloomberg by and large has done a very, very decent job. He’s kept the city safe," he also believes his fortune as an advantage will not mirror in Mayor Bloomberg. “My only criticism of Mayor Bloomberg is I think he wasted a lot of money,” Catsimatidis said. "But he also created walls between himself and people. There are no walls between me and other people.''," he added.
When asked if New Yorkers would embrace another billionaire in City Hall. “I’m different,” Catsimatidis responded. “I grew up in the streets. I grew up on the poor side of town – 135th Street. I was an altar boy [at] the church on 91st Street… I grew up being a merchant, a store owner… The people that grew up like that never forget where they came from… Mike Bloomberg came with a silver spoon, went to Harvard, went to Yale, and then went straight to Solomon Brothers. I love people, I respect people. I got my training – even though I’m running as a Republican – I got my training from Bill Clinton. I was a Clinton Democrat.”
Catsimatidis is opposed to Bloomberg's 16 oz soda ban. Hence, he agrees with Senator Gillibrand that obesity should be done in an education matter while the kids are still in school. "What I would do [through] the education process [is] teach the kids about nutrition while they’re in school. I went to the movies a few weeks ago and I looked up at the board, and it said a big Coca-Cola was 1,100 calories. Telling kids what they should eat and shouldn’t eat I think is a better way.”
As for his position for Gay Marriage, Catsimatidis told the Jewish Voice he has adopted a 'live and let live' approach to the matter. “That’s the reason the pilgrims came to America,” he said. “So they could do whatever they want to do. As long as they’re not bothering anybody, this is America. Let them do whatever they want to do. [I was asked], as mayor, would I perform a gay marriage? I said I’m not volunteering to do it, but if it’s a gay couple that’s friends of mine, I may do it.”
In the interview, Catsimatidis also touted his years long connection with the Jewish community. “Every year I light the menorah on Fifth Avenue for the last twenty years,” he said. According to Catsimatidis, he has formed close friendships with many prominent New York rabbis and takes pride in a dinner he threw at the ‘21’ Club where he brought together Jews and Palestinians at a particularly sensitive time. “At the end of the night, we all laughed,” he recounted..“I was proud that I was able to put together a meeting like that to avoid problems that don’t need to happen."
"I was the head of the Greek Orthodox church at the time. Now I serve as the chairman of the World Congress for Religious Freedom," he added.
It should also be noted that Catsimatidis has hired a known community activist, Yoel Lefkowitz as his campaign's director for Jewish Outreach.