Flatiron Hot! Pundit: New York Mayoral Candidate Jack Hidary Comes to Flatiron District
Sometimes the most interesting political candidates are the long shots. Case in point: Jack Hidary, a tech millionaire and the founder of Earthweb, who visited the Flatiron District’s Le Pain Quotidien on Tuesday to promote his campaign for mayor of New York City. A born Brooklynite from a Syrian Jewish background, Hidary is running as an independent. In the process, he has sacrificed the exposure that comes from sharing the stage with the big-name Democrats and Republicans in the race. Furthermore, Hidary does not hold or participate in public events, seemingly dooming his candidacy to anonymity for all but the most politically engaged New Yorkers.
But then again, keeping a low profile offers its own advantages, which could conceivably pay off down the road. It is worth noting that not many had heard of public advocate Bill de Blasio, currently the front runner in the Democratic primary, until a short time ago. The Hidary campaign hopes that, with the field in a state of constant flux and lacking an overwhelming favorite, their candidate will find an opening for his brand of level-headed, business-minded pragmatism. Indeed, a spate of machine politicians like Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson could make the idea of a business-savvy outsider appealing to New Yorkers, should they lose faith in de Blasio’s progressive idealism.
As independent seeking to win as an outsider, Hidary’s campaign strategy hearkens back to that of another wealthy and influential politician: Michael Bloomberg. This may seem counterintuitive, given that New Yorkers have become disenchanted with the current mayor’s governing philosophy. However, Hidary has sought to distinguish himself from Bloomberg, foregoing an approach that many New Yorkers have come to see as high-handed in favor of focusing on preserving the city’s status as the commerce capital of the world. That means placing less emphasis on contentious issues such as banning e-cigarettes and large sodas and more on outreach to the businesses and financial interests that wield considerable power in New York politics.
Despite running as a Bloomberg-lite, Hidary has thus far contributed only $7 million to his campaign, compared to the outgoing mayor who spent $74 million of his personal fortune to win his first term and even more in subsequent elections. He hopes that his community investments, combined with savvy use of the internet, will compensate for his obscurity and lack of a conventional base. It remains to be seen whether an appeal to business and finance, common bogeymen in contemporary New York politics, can be a winning strategy.