Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis was endorsed by one of the city’s police unions earlier today, and used the opportunity to once again bring up his chief opponent Joe Lhota’s most significant gaffe to date.
“I don’t try to call them ‘mall cops,’ which is wrong,” said Mr. Catsimatidis via spokesman Rob Ryan, following a press conference near City Hall, where the Sergeants Benevolent Association anointed Mr. Catsimatidis their Republican pick.
Mr. Lhota got into some trouble back in May when he referred to Port Authority Police as “nothing more than mall cops” during a mayoral forum. The dig seemed especially ill-fitting, given Mr. Lhota’s stance as a law-and-order candidate who often touts his role in the 9/11 attacks where 37 PAPD officers died.
And, despite a subsequent Lhota apology, police union brass aren’t letting him forget about the gaffe.
“The comments that were made regarding the Port Authority police were really improper. And I know he apologized for it, but I think you have to question what you’re thinking at the time,” Ed Mullins, the union’s president, told Politicker this afternoon. “Everyone is entitled to mistakes … But personally, I would never consider a comment like that of people who are in public service or demeaning people who are putting their lives on the line.”
Mr. Mullins further praised Mr. Catsimatidis, a rumpled billionaire supermarket and oil magnate, arguing that his personal success proved he was up to the task of being mayor.
“The City of New York is, in my view, in desperate need of leadership. We’re teetering on a whole different level of unrest,” he said, pointing to mounting anger directed at police, the fight over racial profiling legislation, as well as larger concerns about the economy, education and affordability.
But Mr. Catsimatidis, it should be noted, is not the SBA’s only choice in the mayor’s race. The union, which represents about 13,000 current and retired NYPD sergeants, has also endorsed former Comptroller Bill Thompson in the Democratic primary.
“They’re two separate races,” explained Mr. Mullins, who argued the two men actually share a lot in common.
“I don’t think that Bill Thompson and John Catsimatidis are so different in so many ways. Obviously one is more successful through entrepreneurship and you can say one is more successful in terms of public service …. but they’ve been successful along the way and they’re both credible and they can both relate to people,” he said adding, that he has yet to decide what the union will do if both men wind up winning their respective primaries and going head-to-head.
Mr. Lhota’s campaign, meanwhile, responded with a statement touting Mr. Lhota’s personal connections to law enforcement.
“Joe is the proud son and brother of NYPD officers and he looks forward to working with all of our law enforcement as mayor to keep New York City safe,” his spokeswoman said.
The endorsement was announced hours before Mr. Catsimatidis released a new ad titled “Public Safety 101,” which features a vow from the candidate to work to keep the city safe.
Mr. Lhota and Mr. Catsimatidis will face off against Doe Fund Founder George McDonald on Sept. 10 for the Republican nomination.