New York.- John Catsimatidis would make a super mayor — just take Vito Fossella’s word for it. The fallen former congressman, along with ex-Gov. George Pataki, makes a cameo in a new 30-second ad that also marks the Republican billionaire’s first speaking part in one of his own spots.
Fossella’s appearance is a clear play for voters in the GOP stronghold of Staten Island, part of which he represented in the House. He abandoned a re-election bid after his stunning outing as a secret two-family man following a 2008 drunk-driving bust for which he later served four days in a Virginia jail.
Catsimatidis rep Rob Ryan said Fossella remains well-regarded by voters despite the scandal over his covert shuttling between a wife and kids in New York and a girlfriend and love child outside DC.
“I think people realize that mistakes are made in life, but I think the good things that Vito Fossella has done for Staten Island and New York City far outweigh any negatives,” Ryan said.
Fossella mulled — but ultimately nixed — a possible comeback in 2010, when Staten Island GOP officials bypassed two other Republican hopefuls to renominate him for his old job.
(The borough party went on to nominate Michael Allegretti. He, in turn, lost the Republican primary to now-Rep. Michael Grimm, who formally endorsed Catsimatidis rival Joe Lhota on Monday.)
Besides the former congressman and governor, the new six-figure-buy Catsimatidis ad also features testimonials from a decorated Army vet, a diner manager, and two retirees, one a former NYPD captain and the other an ex-teacher and principal.
They all frame Catsimatidis — who this week poured another $1 million into his campaign — as a guy who cares about safe streets, job creation and good schools, and still remembers his impoverished Harlem childhood.
The spot closes with the rags-to-riches Catsimatidis looking up from his paper (yes, it’s the Daily News — we asked) to tell viewers, “Now, if I can do it, you can do it too.”
Catsimatidis said the new ad will replace a 60-second autobiographical spot that went up on Memorial Day, making the businessman the first mayoral candidate to jump into TV advertising, and may return later in the cycle.
The Tampa-based Victory Group, which has also made ads for Lhota’s old boss, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and ex-New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, produced both Catsimatidis clips.
Catsimatidis, who is up against former MTA chief Lhota and non-profit founder George McDonald, will hold a Friday presser in Queens to highlight his support from former elected officials and candidates in this year’s local races.
Lhota has also gone to air with two TV pitches — a biographical spot that debuted a day after the first Catsimatidis commercial, and a remix narrated by Giuliani.
Catsimatidis campaign predicts overtaking Lhota ‘in the near future’
Last week’s Marist poll showed Billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis with 21 percent of the Republican vote, behind Joe Lhota, who is at 28 percent, and ahead of Doe Fund founder George McDonald, who is at 10 percent.
Forty percent of the registered Republican voters surveyed by the pollster said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion about the candidates.
The Catsimatidis campaign team is seizing on those numbers to argue that their strategy of high-volume advertising is working, and that they’re picking up the undecided voters. A memo written by the campaign’s pollster, John McLaughlin, said, “Catsimatidis is moving up rapidly” and “has more than doubled his vote,” while Lhota “has moved only 5 points.”