Maragos rides maverick role in GOP race

Maragos rides maverick role in GOP race

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos said last week he is bringing a different point of view in a bid to secure New York’s Republican party nomination to oppose Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand for her seat in the United States Senate.

During a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Blank Slate Media last Thursday, Maragos discussed his political “independence” from fellow Republicans on issues such as national security, the raising of the country’s debt limit and his support of the Consumer Protection Agency.

For the 62-year-old Village of Russell Gardens resident, his 35 years of senior management business experience, combined with an open-minded approach to politics, make him the perfect Republican candidate to face Gillibrand in November’s general election.

“I don’t think there is one (political) religion that we all need to adhere to,” Maragos said. “I think there’s certainly ample opportunity for diverse views. My independence is what I would bring to the table and my knowledge, my experience, my leadership to hopefully help frame some of those Republican or Democrat issues and bring some of the parties together to some level of consensus.”

And in the last few months, it has begun to appear more likely that Maragos will be his party’s choice to oppose Gillibrand.

After originally announcing his intention to run for U.S. Senate in August, Maragos has seen several potential opponents gain prominence as potential candidates, only to then pull back from their bids for the nomination.

Harry Wilson, the Republican candidate for state comptroller in 2010, was frequently mentioned as a possible entrant into the race. He indicated last month in an interview with the Buffalo News that it’s “unlikely” he’ll run against Gillibrand.

Then Marc Cenedella, a wealthy businessman who founded the job search Web site, was considered a Republican candidate who could contribute enough of his own money to finance a viable campaign.

But when several blog postings Cenedella allegedly made concering sex, drugs and dating were found last month, he backed away from the race for the nomination.

Maragos said he is still not a lock to secure the nomination, but his prospects have certainly looked better as of late.

“I hope that the Republican party doesn’t pick somebody else that is going to implode like the last candidate,” he said in apparent reference to Buffalo businessman Carl Palidino’s error-filled run for governor. “That would be a disservice to the public and to the party.”

Instead, Maragos said he his hoping the party will stick with him in the run-up to the Republican primary on June 26.

“I haven’t heard of anybody else, but at the same time I would not be surprised if somebody else came in,” Maragos said.

He added that under the current primary schedule it would be impractical for a candidate to enter the race beyond March.

Meanwhile, Maragos has been traveling the state seeking endorsements from local Republican leaders. Nassau County GOP chairman Joseph Mondello recently endorsed Maragos.

While he has only served as the county comptroller for the past two years, Maragos said his business experience more than makes up for his relative inexperience in politics.

Maragos holds a master’s degree in business administration from Pace University in New York City and a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering Degree from McGill University in Montreal. He has worked as a military consultant and served in executive positions with Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank, before founding SDS Financial Technologies, which he ran for more than 20 years.

“Being a career politician is a disadvantage,” Maragos said. “It’s no qualification at all. My 35 years of private business experience and accomplishments, being a vice president of Chase, Citibank and my own company, those are the qualifications that I think are needed in Washington.”

Another important qualification, Maragos said is his ability to help finance a campaign.

Maragos said he has already contributed $1 million of his own money to his campaign and could commit up to $5 million.

Gillibrand, who is up for re-election after being named by former Gov. David Patterson to take Hillary Clinton’s place when she was named Secretary of State, has already raised more than $8 million, Maragos said.

“I think it’s going to cost about $20 million,” Maragos said of the campaign. “I think if Gillibrand is threatened she’ll probably spend a lot more, but from my point of view, to run a credible campaign you’re going to have to spend around $20 million.”

Although Maragos is currently behind in his fundraising effort, he said that he has gained some ground in polls concerning his “name recognition” with voters.

“I’ve created a lot of buzz throughout the state,” Maragos said. “I think I’ve been to most of the counties, so they’ve gotten to know me. If you look at the last Siena poll that was taken, in terms of name recognition, I have about a 22 percent name recognition. (It) sounds low, but coming from zero statewide, that’s a remarkable achievement.”

Maragos said another recent poll has also come out in his favor. He said a poll taken “a few months ago” asked Republican voters what is “the ideal person that people would like to vote for.”

“That was very little political experience and a lot of business experience, proven business experience,” Maragos said of the poll. “92 percent of the people voted that that would be the ideal candidate. I think that I am that ideal candidate.”

In terms of the issues, Maragos said he supports an overhaul of President Barrack Obama’s current health-care plan.

“We need to bring our costs under control,” Maragos said. “We have to make it affordable for everybody to have coverage.”

Maragos said that tort reform is needed to make real changes in the nation’s health-care system and creating competition in the medical field would be beneficial for patients and doctors alike. He said he would support legislation to “break down medical and pharmaceutical monopolies to promote competition to bring down cost of a lot of the prescription drugs.”

Allowing doctors to post prices for particular procedures and treatments would also help to create free enterprise for the nation’s health care, Maragos said.

“Let’s open up the system,” he said. “Let’s bring in free enterprise. Let’s get more doctors in the field to compete with one another. Let’s be creative. Let’s stimulate the free-market system. It’s served this country well. I think it can continue to serve us well.”

In line with his Republican counterparts, Maragos said he opposes most of the Dodd-Frank law, which is intended to regulate the U.S. financial system.

“Aside from the consumer protection rules that are there, nothing else in that bill is worthwhile to maintain,” Maragos said. “It’s only going to continue to kill and drive jobs overseas.”

Maragos said, however, that he is in favor of the work being done by the Consumer Protection Agency.

“Those regulations I do, yes,” Maragos said. “I think there’s some merit there. I’m independent. I will speak for what is right.”

Unlike many Republicans, Maragos said he also supports that so-called “Buffet rule” proposed by President Obama that would require millionaires to pay at least the same rate as the average taxpayer – about 28 percent. He also called for a reform of the country’s tax code that would eliminate many of the exemptions enjoyed by many companies and allow for an increase in federal revenues.

Maragos said he is in support of creating funding, along with research and development opportunities, for businesses to help the nation gain independence from foreign oil and other energy sources. He also said he is in support of hydrofracking if it is done in an environmentally responsible manner.

“You can predict outcomes,” Maragos said of energy research. “Some outcomes, you’re going to fall short and you’re going to compensate along the way. New technologies are going to come about that you’re going to take advantage of, but you have a clear goal that you’re aiming for and you get the nation behind to support it.”

Maragos said he was in support of raising the nation’s debt limit to help stop the financial crisis, a move many Republicans opposed.

But he has been in line with many Republicans in what Maragos said is his desire to reduce the role of government. Maragos said he would support the elimination of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Commerce and Department of Education.

“I will be independent,” he said. “I bring leadership. I bring vision. I will work with people in the back rooms, if you will, in private to arrive at consensus and hopefully get us to a better place.”

Maragos said the issues he supports are better for the country than the issues Gillibrand has endorsed, including her recent bill intended to strengthen rules against insider trading.

“I think those are big issues that we need to address as a nation that we are not at all addressing,” Maragos said. “If anything we are chiseling around the fringes with whether it be tax cuts or targeted stimulus. We are not addressing the big issues of making our economy competitive, providing affordable health care.”

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