Manhattan Media Publisher and 2013 mayoral hopeful Tom Allon announced Monday that he will switch his party registration from Democrat to Republican to sidestep the already crowded Democratic Primary.
Allon made his announcement in front of the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan Monday morning. His campaign is to represent a fusion of the two parties, combining fiscally conservative values with liberal social policy.
The GOP primary will be considerably less competitive than that of the Democratic Party, which includes City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Each of these candidates has raised millions for a potential mayoral bid, whereas no Republican candidates have established serious campaign committees.
I have previously written about the successful GOP tactic of welcoming former Democratic political novices to run on the Republican line. Candidates like Rudy Guiliani and Michael Bloomberg have proven that skipping a challenging Democratic primary can lead to City Hall.
Allon's decision to change parties would potentially pit him against Doe Fund founder George McDonald, who announced the creation of an exploratory committee last month.
Allon and McDonald must convince Republican donors to invest in his candidacy. The sudden party registration switch for political purposes and social policies that may not align with conservative donors will pose challenges to both these men as they establish a serious fund raising operation. Michael Bloomberg did not face this challenge when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2001, since he self-financed his campaign operations.
A third potential candidate, billionaire Gristides owner John Catsimatidis, is considering a mayoral run if Police Commissioner Kelly doesn’t declare his candidacy for the office. Catsimatidis has indicated that his run for mayor would be self-financed, and that he is willing to spend millions on his candidacy.
In my last piece on this topic, I expressed frustration over the Republican’s flavor of the week, State Senator Malcolm Smith. Between spending decades in elected office pursuing the Democratic agenda and his failures in his stint as Senate Majority Leader, a sudden switch to the GOP to run for mayor would not be successful. However, potential bids from Catsimatidis, McDonald, and Allon are likely to diminish the probability of Smith making a serious run for City Hall.
The three candidates who have expressed interest in running for mayor since Malcolm Smith’s declaration are far better choices for the GOP nomination. Catsimatidis, in particular, has a compelling story with cross-party appeal. He is a self-made businessman who enjoyed early success in business management, owning ten grocery stores by the time he was twenty-four. If nothing else, his significant financial advantage will prove challenging for Allon or McDonald to overcome.
Given McDonald’s work in charity, though, the GOP primary will be more competitive and receive more media attention than New York City voters are accustomed to. This will help the Republican candidates stay relevant and build a high profile during the Democratic Primary, in which over $20 million will be spent to sway the city’s democratic base.
One concern, however, is that a competitive Republican Primary might mirror GOP presidential primaries. Allon, McDonald, and Catsimitadis may feel pressured to taking stances to the right of their true beliefs in the hopes of swaying Republican primary voters.
As a fiscally moderate Democrat, I hope a real primary in the Republican Party is used to properly gather attention for the general election candidacy of a “New York Republican” — a strong leader who combines fiscally conservative policies without adopting social policies of the current GOP.