2:35 pm Jan. 10, 20131
George McDonald kicked off his mayoral campaign inside Grand Central Terminal, where, years ago, he regularly delivered food to homeless people.
A police officer who was ordered to arrest McDonald balked, sympathized with his cause, went to work for McDonald, and introduced him today.
McDonald now heads the Doe Fund, which helps find work for former inmates and homeless people.
Also: He is now a Republican.
"We face a jobs crisis in this city," said McDonald, who switched his registration from Democrat this summer.
He noted it was around 9 percent citywide and "as high as 11.8 percent in the Bronx."
The rate among young black and Hispanic men, "worse yet," is 14 percent.
Employment is going to be the theme of his campaign, the main goal of which, he said, would be the "full employment of every resident of our great city."
That theme is meant to have appeal beyond registered members of the Republican Party, who will presumably regard him as a Huntsman-like oddity in any case.
McDonald made his appearance against the backdrop of an ethnically diverse crowd of supporters, talking about the 700 consecutive days he spent feeding the homeless, and articulating a defense of the "47 percent" of Americans Republican Mitt Romney accused of simply wanting a handout from the government, rather than contributing to society.
"I know something about the 47 percent," he said. "I have worked with them each and every day for the past 25 years. They don't dream less. They don't care less. They don't aspire less. But the best way to empower the 47 percent is to help them find a job."
McDonald declined to criticize any of his would-be Democratic or Republican opponents. Asked repeatedly by Carl Campanile of the New York Post about who he thought would go soft on public-employee unions, McDonald demurred, saying he'd get into that later.
I asked if he supported public subsidies to keep private businesses like FreshDirect from moving out of the city.
"I think those are good questions but I think we have a long campaign to get to, he said, adding, "I am in favor of anything that encourages the establishment of small businesses."
McDonald has filed a lawsuit claiming that donation limits set by the New York City Campaign Finance Board are unconstitutional because they're lower than the limits set by the state.
"I'm going to continue raising money under the state law," McDonald said.
After the event, McDonald took a few photographs with well-wishers and was followed by reporters, cameramen and photographers as he walked along Lexington Avenue, then up 42nd Street. He stopped and spoke to people waiting online at a jobs fair.
"Running for mayor — to get you a job!" he said at one point.
He gave his card to several people, introducing himself as a mayoral candidate. The reaction was generally positive, though some of the people seemed unpleasantly surprised at having their photograph taken while job-hunting.
I asked McDonald whether he felt he needed the support of the Republican county chairman in order to run.
"No, I'm a registered Republican," he said. "August 18. That's why I did it, right?"
He said he had a "wonderful dinner" in East Harlem with the chairmen.
Jill Colvin of DNAinfo asked what the chairman told him at the dinner.
"They're politicians," McDonald said. "What do you expect?"