Our Town: A clothier’s quixotic quest

OurTown

A clothier’s quixotic quest

BY DOUGLAS FEIDEN

July 24, 2018 3:07 pm ET

http://www.ourtownny.com/local-news/20180724/a-clothiers-quixotic-quest/2

As he will be the very first to tell you, the 76-year-old former U.S. Army captain and owner for four decades of tony clothing stores across the Upper East Side is a most unconventional and unlikely political hopeful.

“I am not a normal candidate,” said Eliot Rabin in a candid two-hour interview as he sat under racks of boy’s jackets in the crowded stock room of Peter Elliot Blue, his shop on Lexington Avenue and 72nd Street.

Right on cue, he tossed off a trademark politically incorrect bon mot to describe the inventory of his shops. “Ain’t nothing made in China,” he said. After a short pause for effect, “My merchandise is finah.”

Rabin is mounting a Republican challenge, steeply uphill, to longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the 12th Congressional District. “I’m old,” he said matter-of-factly. “But I’m fresh.”

The South Carolina native may be a political neophyte. He has scant campaign funds. Modest name recognition. He only joined the GOP a few months ago. He’s vying to represent an area where 70,000 Republicans are out-registered and outvoted by 288,000 Democrats.

But he’s developed a possible campaign slogan: “Maloney is baloney.” And he plans to deploy “my verbiage, my energy and my personality” to topple the North Carolina-born rival four years his junior.

Rabin possesses not only drive, humor and a quirky world view — he’s got two separate identities. His campaign committee, “Eliot Rabin-Peter Elliot for Congress,” may be the only entity registered with the Federal Election Commission that uses alternative names for a single candidate.

His explanation is a political novelty. “Over the last 40 years, I have become, generically, ‘Peter Elliot,’ from the name of my stores,” he said. “But the candidate you’re going to vote for is named ‘Eliot Rabin.’

“The people who know me well call me ‘Eliot,’” he added. “The people who think they know me well call me ‘Peter.’ I answer to both.”

Asked to elaborate on the duality, Rabin — who grew up in Charleston attending Reform synagogues and now prays at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue — offers a ready answer. “Think Yiddish, look British!” he said.

At stake in the race is a district that’s been Maloney’s political base since she was first elected to Congress in 1992. The prize takes in the Upper East Side, Midtown, including Trump Tower, Union Square, Flatiron, Roosevelt Island, the East Village and parts of Chelsea, Brooklyn and Queens.

A 1964 graduate of The Citadel, the military college in his hometown, Rabin entered the Army, served in Germany during the Vietnam War, developed a fondness for guns but a loathing for the NRA, and to this day, treasures the rigor and discipline of service.

The returning veteran became a buyer at Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street, later designing menswear for Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta. But he never forgot the words of his father, Leon, who owned men’s stores in Charleston and once handed him a broom, saying, “If you can fold a cashmere sweater with your left hand and clean a toilet with your right hand, you can make it in business.”

A RETAILER’S TRIUMPHS AND DISASTERS

In 1977, Rabin did just that. He opened the first of what would eventually become five Paul Elliot shops on the East Side, and the business took off. But there were spectacular failures, too, and Rabin discusses them with a candor rare for any political candidate.

“I over-expanded the business, I burned up the money,” he said. “I had creative ideas for new retail businesses, but I was undercapitalized from the beginning.” He contracted, closed shops. Today, there are two left, including Peter Elliot Women at 1071 Madison Avenue.

“It’s my fault, 100 percent, my responsibility,” Rabin said.

There’s more: In 1984, he could have bought a building on Second Avenue at 80th Street where his first shop was housed. It was offered for $375,000, his lawyer and accountant felt it was worth $275,000. Eventually, it sold to a third party for $450,000. A quarter-century later, it traded for $36 million.

“Biggest mistake I ever made in business,” Rabin said. He added, “I was smoking dope at the time, I wasn’t thinking straight.”

Why is he running? “I’m a patriot,” he said. “I’m tired of incivility. I’m tired of the socio-economic divisiveness, it’s extremely dangerous, and I think we can bring a little bit of manners back to the city.”

Civility doesn’t typically figure in rough-and-tumble, big-city politics, but it’s vital to Rabin: “I will always be a Southern boy,” he said. “I’m bringing Southern gentility to New York City.”

Admittedly, it’s an old-fashioned approach. “I profess to be a little bit of a gentleman,” he added. “I still say, ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and I still open the door for a lady.”

At that point, Molly C. Braswell, his Mississippi-bred campaign manager, interjected, “You have no idea how much some of us really appreciate that!”

Rabin continued, “The bottom line is this, when I compliment a woman in my elevator, and say, ‘Ma’am you look very nice,’ I get a thank you, and I really appreciate that.”

The Parkland school massacre was a catalyst for his decision to run, Rabin said, and he had been stirred to action by what he deems the “moral decay of our society, the moral bankruptcy of a lot of our leaders.”

He adds, “It’s not just about guns, it’s about a collective breakdown of our society.”

In Congress, he’d seek to reverse that. One approach would be to bring back the draft, he argues. “With no exemptions for Mr. Trump, no exemptions for Mr. Clinton, no exemptions for Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Podunk University,” he said. “All genders would serve.”

Under his plan, conscientious objectors could serve in two new branches of government, a Youth Reaction Corps, to supplement first responders, and a Domestic Peace Corps, to boost the poor and needy.

Another item on his agenda: “English should be our national language. Period,” he said. “Everybody in this country should learn a second language, but English is our native language, our primary language. It’s as simple as that.”

Like the incumbent he seeks to dislodge, Rabin has long been rooted in the Upper East Side. He lives near First Avenue at 81st Street, and his two favorite restaurants — Gracie Mews, an upscale diner, and A.O.C. East, a French bistro — are right around the corner.

A few blocks away, Fifth Avenue and 79th Street is his favorite street corner. “It’s a marvelous mix of local and tourists. They’re all in awe, peaceful and loving, as they enter the park or the Met, feasting along the way,” Rabin said.

Posted on 25 Jul 2018, 14:51 - Category: In the News



Molinaro Emerges on Top After Manhattan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum

Molinaro Emerges on Top After Manhattan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum

March 16, 2018 | by Samar Khurshid

Gotham Gazette

http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7543-molinaro-emerges-on-top-after-manhattan-gop-gubernatorial-candidate-forum

Weeks before he is set to officially launch his campaign for governor, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has all but claimed the Republican nomination, and on Wednesday, he locked up another endorsement putting him closer to the goal.

At a gubernatorial candidate screening Wednesday night at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan, Molinaro emerged as the top choice of the Manhattan County Republicans over state Senator John DeFrancisco and Joseph Holland, a former aide to Governor George Pataki.

Over the course of about 90 minutes, one by one, the three candidates pitched their qualifications and their electability to a gathering of more than 100 Republicans. The crowd cheered, and jeered, as the three each took their jabs at Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both second-term Democrats, and presented their vision for governing New York State. Though few concrete policy prescriptions were aired, the gathering seemed pleased to hear each candidate variously criticize the Cuomo administration for how, as Holland said, it “over-taxes, over-spends, and over-regulates.”

Cuomo has said he is seeking a third term this year, and has more than $30 million in his campaign account. But, given several issues, including the upstate economy, the MTA subway crisis, and, on Tuesday, the corruption conviction of Cuomo’s former top aide and closest confidante, Joseph Percoco, Republicans see an opening to win the governorship for the first time since 2002.

On Wednesday night in Manhattan, each of the three candidates had roughly 20 minutes to demonstrate how they’d reach what Manhattan GOP Chair Andrea Catsimatidis called the “magic 30 percent number” of New York City voters who could give them enough votes to beat Cuomo. While the governor is less popular outside the city, he relies on the five boroughs for a significant portion of his ability to win statewide elections.

Molinaro, who spoke last, framed himself as a committed public servant who would work with his opponents across the aisle, and has no interest in political posturing. “I think that we are paralyzed in New York by elected officials all too often working to posture instead of trying to produce real results,” he said.

Speaking first was Holland, a Harlem minister who has previously served as state housing commissioner under the last Republican governor, George Pataki, has never been in elected office but pitched himself as the “most electable” of the three candidates. His appeal, he slowly and deliberately said, breaks down to three P’s: Profile. Proven. Power.

“It’s a profile that I have which is unique, it’s a proven track record as an experienced outsider, and then the power to win at the ballot box in November,” he told the audience. Holland spoke of his past -- which includes playing all-American football, founding and running a homeless shelter, a law degree, and a career in the real estate industry -- and recounted a previous failed run for state Senate. He mentioned his upstate roots in Auburn in Cayuga County, and his time working for both the executive chamber and the state Legislature in Albany.

“I’m an outsider with experience, and ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, that’s what the electorate wants right now,” he said, referring to the election of Donald Trump as president. Noting that the party had never before nominated an African-American for governor, he promised a “fresh, bold, dynamic approach” that can forge a winning coalition of upstate and downstate voters.

In each candidate’s Q&A after their individual presentations, moderator Frederic Umane (the Republican Board of Elections Commissioner from Manhattan) asked how they’d raise the necessary funds to go against Cuomo’s $30 million war chest “without having to cook ziti,” in a reference to the preferred term for bribes used by Percoco and co-conspirators, as revealed through the federal corruption trial that just concluded.     

Holland admitted it would be a challenge, but said he’d tap his varied networks from his time at Cornell University, Harvard Law School, and his ties to the real estate industry. He pointed out, though, that “it’s more difficult until you’re the actual nominee.”

But when questioned on specific issues such as homelessness, the MTA, school safety, infrastructure projects, and public housing, Holland had few proposals. In each instance, he said he would work with the necessary stakeholders while avoiding the public spats that Cuomo has resorted to with de Blasio and others, and the open defiance of President Trump.

While Holland has no experience with public office, DeFrancisco, a Syracuse native, has served in the Legislature for more than 20 years. Armed with an acerbic wit and disinterest in political correctness, DeFrancisco took his turn at convincing the audience to support his candidacy. “I’ve had leadership positions in everything I’ve ever done,” he said, listing everything he’s done from being top of his class in high school and captain of his college baseball team to now, serving as deputy majority leader of the Senate. (DeFrancisco sought the position of majority leader in 2015 but lost that bid to current Majority Leader John Flanagan, who is among those to endorse the senator for governor.)

“President Lincoln once said that ‘If I had six hours to chop a tree, I’d use the first four hours to sharpen the axe.’ And my axe is sharpened and it’s directly aimed at our current governor, Andrew Cuomo,” DeFrancisco said.

Touting the 17 electoral victories over the course of his career, DeFrancisco said he could easily remain in the Senate for the foreseeable future. “But I find, as a legislator, you can only make changes along the edges. The real fundamental changes that have to be made, in my mind, only can come from the governor’s office,” he said.

DeFrancisco insisted that an earnest campaign based on building trust with voters could be successful. “Whether you’re from the far left, the far right, or in between, people don’t like the manner in which this person does business...it’s a very personal campaign against Cuomo,” he said.

In response to queries from the audience, DeFrancisco did take some policy positions but did not advance many new ideas. He said he is in favor of fracking, against congestion pricing, and for a set-aside of a percentage of income taxes to fund the MTA. He opposes term limits for statewide elected officials and state legislators, and is against the Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations for victims of child abuse to make claims. He called for cuts to spending and streamlining bloat at state agencies.

DeFrancisco also expressed confidence that Cuomo’s campaign funds weren’t a threat to him but rather a liability for Cuomo himself, alluding to the governor’s heavy reliance on campaign finance loopholes that has allowed large sums of money to flow to him from entities doing business with the state (Yet another aspect of the Percoco trial.) The senator noted that he already has about $1.5 million for his campaign.

“You can’t just be Mr. Nice Guy and be able to compete with his money and the negative things he’s going to say about you or his surrogates are going to say about you without fighting back,” he said. Proudly referencing a New York Times articlefrom last year which referred to him as an “irascible straight shooter,” DeFrancisco said, “You couldn’t have a better contrast with an irascible straight shooter and a lying sack of you-know-what. That’s the race that you should have and I’m ready, willing, and able to do that.”

Last to speak but far from least was Molinaro, who charismatically sped through an almost bulleted list of positions he’s held, his accomplishments, and his reasons for running. The latest entrant into the race, Molinaro had just two months ago said he would not run, but as he explained Wednesday, he changed his tune after he received a flood of solicitations and endorsements from more than two dozen Republican county leaders and officials following Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb’s early exit from the race.

Those endorsements, including from Kolb, also mean that, coming into Wednesday night, Molinaro had already secured roughly 45 percent of the necessary votes he needs for the nomination from the Republican convention in May. Manhattan put him over 50 percent in terms of county chairs or delegations that have endorsed him -- while Molinaro is the clear frontrunner, votes still have to be taken at the convention.

“I have admittedly spent every day of my adult life in public service because I believe deeply in the responsibility to contribute to one’s community,” Molinaro said, hearkening back to when he was first elected at the age of 18 to the board of trustees for the Village of Tivoli on the banks of the Hudson River in Dutchess County. “Where I come from, you hold elected office because its an honor, it’s a duty, it’s a dignified responsibility,” he said.

Molinaro criticized the “new normal” of a pay-to-play culture in Albany and a state government that continues to “spend more than it can, tax more than it should and borrow to make up the difference.”

Emphasizing that the Republican Party can “breathe new fresh air into Albany,” he said he would work to empower state legislators if elected. Molinaro is a former member of the Assembly himself. He also said a successful campaign would have to be based on strong messaging that touches at the heart of issues affecting everyday New Yorkers, and by creating an extensive presence on the ground in communities.

“I think that our party has to assemble a ticket that reflects the complexion of New York, the people of New York. There needs to be a New York City voice,” he said. There has been no indication who Molinaro might seek as a lieutenant governor running mate.

Molinaro was also confident that he’d be able to elevate the importance of the Republican ticket beyond the confines of New York to bring in the funds that he needs to challenge Cuomo. “I have run for office for a while. I’ve always had competition. I have always raised enough to be competitive...I do believe I have the ability to nationalize this election,” he said. “I do, because I believe that our party wants candidates like us, to stand up nationally and say, ‘The Republican Party cares about people.’”

Asked how he’d approach working with Mayor de Blasio if elected, Molinaro insisted he’d rise above petty squabbles and wouldn’t seek to politically “outmaneuver” the mayor, as Cuomo has often tended to do with his fellow Democrat. (He did, however, smile cheekily as he said he’d work with anyone who is “honest and earnest,” clearly alluding to de Blasio’s checkered ethics record).

On the inevitable Trump question, Molinaro made no bones about supporting the president when he champions hard-working, middle-class Americans. But, he was clear that he disagreed with using the bully pulpit to belittle his opponents.

“You’ll always hear me say it the way I see it just like I think many people admire the way he says it the way he sees it,” Molinaro said.

Molinaro’s charm offensive was clearly effective. Within an hour after the forum, the Manhattan GOP’s executive committee had “overwhelmingly endorsed” his candidacy.

*** 
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Posted on 15 Mar 2018, 13:46 - Category: 2018 Election



Marc Molinaro endorsed by Manhattan GOP in race for NY governor

Marc Molinaro endorsed by Manhattan GOP in race for NY governor

Robert Harding robert.harding@lee.net

Mar 15, 2018 Updated 4 hrs ago

 

http://auburnpub.com/blogs/eye_on_ny/marc-molinaro-endorsed-by-manhattan-gop-in-race-for-ny/article_d06fd8c4-2851-11e8-87b4-d7187856c83a.html

 

The first New York City Republican committee to endorse Marc Molinaro for governor helped the front-runner for the GOP nomination to cross an important threshold. 

The Manhattan Republican Party's executive committee endorsed Molinaro, R-Red Hook, following a candidates screening Wednesday night. It is the 32nd GOP county chair or committee endorsement announced by Molinaro's campaign over the past week. 

With the Manhattan GOP's support, Molinaro now has endorsements representing 50.3 percent of the weighted vote at the convention. To win the nomination at the convention, a candidate must secure at least 50 percent of the vote. 

Marc Molinaro to formally launch campaign for NY governor in April

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has told Republican leaders he is a candidate for go…

It's possible that state committee members could support a candidate other than the individual endorsed by their county chair or committee. But voters traditionally are unified in their support of one candidate at the convention.

Andrea Catsimatidis, chairwoman of the Manhattan Republican Party, said Molinaro is the best candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

"This election is critical for New York state, we desperately need to strengthen our economy, create jobs and make New York more affordable," Catsimatidis said. "As a strong county executive, Marc has proven that he has what it takes to make New York great again." 

Molinaro's campaign announced another endorsement Thursday morning. The Otsego County Republican Party's executive committee endorsed the Dutchess County executive for governor. 

Joe Marmorato, vice chairman of the Otsego County Republican Committee, said Molinaro will "restore New York to the Empire State."

Molinaro emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination last week. He received several endorsements from county chairs across the state, including Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy and Suffolk County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle. 

His closest competitor for the GOP gubernatorial nomination is state Sen. John DeFrancisco. DeFrancisco, R-DeWitt, has the support of 17 Republican county chairs representing 18.27 percent of the weighted vote. 

Joe Holland, an attorney and former Pataki administration official, is also in the race. He hasn't received any GOP county endorsements. 

The Republican convention will be held in May. The winner will likely face Cuomo, who is seeking a third term. 

Cuomo may have to fight for the Democratic nomination. Cynthia Nixon, an actress best known for her role on "Sex and the City," is exploring a run for governor. She would run in the Democratic primary against Cuomo. 

Terry Gipson, a Democrat and former state senator from Dutchess County, is already in the primary race. Ex-Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner may challenge Cuomo, too. 

Posted on 15 Mar 2018, 13:26 - Category: 2018 Election



MANHATTAN REPUBLICANS ENDORSE CANDIDATE TO CHALLENGE CUOMO FOR GOVERNOR

MANHATTAN REPUBLICANS ENDORSE CANDIDATE TO CHALLENGE CUOMO FOR GOVERNOR

By Zack Fink  |  March 14, 2018 @11:51 PM

 

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/03/15/manhattan-republican-party-endorses-marc-molinaro-run-for-new-york-governor

 

If there is one thing that state Republicans seem to agree on lately, it's that they should avoid a divisive primary in September.

"I think, absolutely, it would be better to avoid a primary. We have to unify behind a candidate," Manhattan Republican Chair Andrea Catsimatidis said. "I think all three candidates are fantastic, and it has to be a referendum on Gov. Cuomo, and the sooner we get behind somebody, the better."

The three declared GOP candidates for governor made their case to Manhattan Republicans on Wednesday night. State Sen. John DeFrancisco said he is in the best position to take on Cuomo.

"The New York Times, the hotbed of conservative publications, referred to me when I first got into this race as an irascible — I am — irascible straight shooter," DeFrancisco said to the crowd. "Now, contrast that. You couldn't have a better contrast, with an irascible straight shooter and a lying sack of you-know-what."

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro only recently entered the race after saying he wouldn't run in January. Molinaro, who is racking up endorsements from Republican County chairs across the state, was asked about how he would treat New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who constantly battles with Cuomo.

"There are going to be days that the city of New York doesn't need a governor that's trying to outmaneuver the mayor. You're going to need that," Molinaro said. "When decisions need to be made not on how to belittle the other office holder, but rather how to problem-solve."

Joe Holland is also in the race, but has not secured any endorsements from county chairs.

"We can all agree that Andrew Cuomo has failed as governor of New York State," Holland said.

In the end, it was Molinaro who got the endorsement of the Manhattan Republicans. If all three candidates stay in the race, eventually the party must decide who to back. It will likely do so at the GOP Convention, which is in May.

Posted on 15 Mar 2018, 13:25 - Category: 2018 Election



Manhattan GOP Endorses Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro for Governor

Manhattan GOP Endorses Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro for Governor

Chair Catsimatidis: Marc has what it takes to beat Cuomo in November

The Executive Committee of the Manhattan Republican Party overwhelmingly voted to endorse Marc Molinaro for Governor on Wednesday evening at the Metropolitan Republican Club on East 83rd Street following a candidates screening. County GOP Chair Andrea Catsimatidis called Molinaro, "the best candidate to take on Andrew Cuomo." She continued, "this election is critical for New York State, we desperately need to strengthen our economy, create jobs and make New York more affordable. As a strong County Executive, Marc has proven that he has what it takes to make New York great again. Our county is proud to endorse his candidacy for Governor."  

Posted on 15 Mar 2018, 10:31 - Category: 2018 Election



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