Why are Republicans talking about Ray Kelly? Because he’s ‘the only one that stands a chance of winning’

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Bob Turner. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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"Oh yeah, I'd love him to, yes."

That was Republican congressman Bob Turner, when asked last night if he would like to see the New York City police commissioner run for mayor next year. "And I'm saying that as a citizen of New York City, not as a politician. I don't even know what party he is going to run for."

Democrats have five seasoned politicians running for mayor, counting John Liu. Four have more than a million dollars on hand for next year's race and the fifth came within five points of defeating billionaire incumbent Michael Bloomberg in 2009. 

If Kelly doesn't run, the Republicans have John Catsimatidis, who has money but who has never actually run for office before, despite flirting with the idea for years. (Kelly's diplomatic answer to Republicans who approach him about running for mayor, apparently, is "I'm a big fan of John Catismatidis.")

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Talking to me in the back of the Sheraton ballroom last night whether the state Republican Party had its annual dinner, Turner said that Kelly is "not a politician. He's an honest broker, That's the most important thing that a city can have."

Although acknowledging it would take a "great personal sacrifice" for Kelly to campaign and serve, the congressman said the commissioner should do it. "I think it's wonderful for the city of New York to have a person like Ray Kelly as mayor."

Later, I asked Catsimatidis, who was also there, about Kelly.

"I was at a dinner last addressing 300 bankers," he told me. "Ray Kelly was there with me and I urged everyone to support him ... He has a lot of knowledge of the city that you can't get anywhere else."

Outside the Sheraton after the event, I asked the Kelly question of City Councilman Eric Ulrich, up-and-coming Republican of Queens.

Ulrich said Kelly appears to be the only option.

"Out of all the names being batted about, there's only one that stands a chance of winning, if he runs on the Republican line," Ulrich said, of Kelly. "Every other name I've heard thus far doesn't stand a chance."