City G.O.P. chairs discuss 7 mayoral contenders, with an eye to avoiding ‘divisive social issues’

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Manhattan G.O.P. chair Dan Isaacs last night said he and his committee are scheduled to meet with supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis and former M.T.A. chair Joe Lhota in the next two weeks.

Isaacs was speaking after a meeting last night on Staten Island with the city's four other Republican county chairmen to see if they could unite behind a single mayoral candidate and avert a primary.

At last night's meeting, according to Isaacs, the chairs discussed "the political viability" of seven declared and potential Republican candidates.

The seven declared or potential Republican candidates he had in mind are Lhota, Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, Doe Fund president George McDonald, local-newspaper publisher Tom Allon, former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion Jr., State Senator Malcolm Smith, and Rev. A.R. Bernard.

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"Demonstratively speaking, you're not going to have much in the way of difference in substantive policies" among the Republican candidates, Isaacs said. "Being independent of the unions' agenda, we're all on board with that. ... All of our candidates are supportive of the policing policies of Ray Kelly."

The chairmen "focused tonight on the political aspects" of the candidates, Isaacs said. "Obviously we're outnumbered [and need to] attract independent and crossover Democrats. That's the only way we win this race."

According to Isaacs, the chairmen are evaluating the practicality of each candidate's path to victory: "How do you go about making this connection with voters? … That's what we're looking for."

Isaacs said one thing that could factor into how much emphasis they put on Lhota's positions in favor of pot legalization and gay marriage or, for that matter, Bernard's position against it.

"Social issues are not going to be in play here," he said. "I think we recognize that here in New York, to survive and thrive … we need to focus on economic issues, and not the social issues. Our campaigns are going to be won on that, not on divisive social issues."

(This may well be wishful thinking: In an appearance on New York 1 to advocate for Lhota, his former deputy, Rudy Giuliani got tied up talking about abortion and gay marriage, a legacy of the Romney-like contortions he went through in an awkward attempt to reconcile his history of social liberalism with the perceived demands of a Republican presidential primary. On New York 1, Giuliani, who is presumably done running for things, used the word "evolving.")

Isaacs said the economic agenda the Republican candidate pursues will be in sharp relief to whomever emerges from the crowded Democratic primary.

"To stand up to the influence of the unions, that's what is going to set the Republican candidate apart from the Democrat," he said.

He referred to George Pataki, the former three-term Republican governor of the state who won his last re-election, in part, by cutting a generous deal with 1199 SEIU.

Pataki, according to Isaacs, "became Democrat-light."

Republicans this year cannot do that, he said.

Then, underscoring his point, he cited a Democrat: "That's what it's about: it's the economy, stupid."