Republican sources say supermarket mogul and former GOP hizzoner hopeful John Catsimatidis is urging Democrat Andrew Gounardes to take another shot at unseating state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — who spurned the founder of the Gristedes chain in the 2013 primary in favor of former Metropolitan Transportation Authority head Joe Lhota.
GOP insiders said Catsimatidis — the 132nd richest man in America, according to Forbes Magazine — has been boasting recently of encouraging Golden’s unsuccessful 2012 challenger to run against the six-term Senator again. The 11-year incumbent beat Gounardes 57 percent to 43 percent, though the challenger performed surprisingly well in Golden’s home turf of Bay Ridge.
Catsimatidis — whose daughter is married to State GOP chairman Ed Cox’s son — has already gone after two other prominent Republican Lhota backers, Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R–Queens). The grocery magnate and his immediate family have given almost $20,000 to Grimm’s Democratic challenger, former Councilman Domenic Recchia, and sponsored a $15,000 mailing campaign against Ulrich’s re-election last year.
A network of Mediterranean roots connect Gounardes to Cats. Catsimatidis sits with Gounardes’s father, a prominent Bay Ridge dentist, on the Archdiocesan Council of the American Greek Orthodox Church. And the Greek-born grocer and Gounardes’s uncle were both officers of the Hellenic American Political Action Committee, a now-defunct funding funnel for candidates hailing from the cradle of democracy. But backing Gounardes would mark a turnaround for Cats.
Gounardes’s unsuccessful 2012 campaign enjoyed the financial backing of Bay Ridge’s real estate-owning Hellenic-American community, plus a number of prominent Manhattan Greeks — but not Catsimatidis. Instead, the tycoon and mayoral hopeful poured more than $10,000 to Golden’s campaign coffers between 2007 and 2012.
Gounardes, who reportedly has so far been lukewarm to the prospect of running again, refused to confirm or deny having conversations with Catsimatidis.
“I’m not going to comment on who I’m talking to or who’s talking to me. Those conversations are private,” Gounardes said.
Catsimatidis, however, flatly denies meeting with Gounardes.
But Golden may be cutting deals with liberal Mayor DeBlasio to prevent a strong Democratic challenge in the fall.
Golden’s attendance of a Jan. 5 party at Gracie Mansion with state Sen. Jeff Klein (D–Bronx) has conservatives worried the veteran Republican will back the newly-minted Dem Mayor’s plan to fund pre-Kindergarten for all New York children with a new tax on the state’s wealthiest, which requires state approval.
Klein formed the Senate’s four-member breakaway Independent Democratic Conference in 2012, and struck a power-sharing arrangement with the Republicans to jointly run the body. But Brooklyn GOP leaders worry that Klein’s caucus is really running the show.
“The Independent Democrats are setting the entire agenda in the Senate, and passing what is really Democrat-lite legislation,” a Republican insider complained.
Klein recently got behind the DeBlasio pre-K plan, telling the New York Post: “Universal pre-K is clearly one of the best investments our city can make. Passing Mayor DeBlasio’s full plan will be one of my top priorities.”
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan) has also endorsed DeBlasio’s idea. The only obstacles are Governor Cuomo — who has recommended statewide pre-K minus the upper-bracket hike — and the Senate Republicans.
Golden’s office said that the Senator supports Governor Cuomo’s proposal for universal pre-K.
Turns out Brooklyn won’t be getting the number-two slot in the Council — despite Kings County Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio’s deal to unite the borough’s 16-member delegation behind new Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D–Manhattan). Sources say the new chair of the powerful Finance Committee, holder of the Council’s purse strings, will be Councilwoman Julissa Ferraras (D–Queens). Ferreras is a member of Mark-Viverito’s Progressive Caucus, and has served in the Council since 2009.