One of tech industry multimillionaire Jack Hidary's biggest hurdles in his quest to become mayor of New York City is playfully acknowledged on his campaign T-shirts.
"You don't know Jack," they read.
But the independent seeking to take up Michael Bloomberg's torch of economic development and carry it to the outer boroughs bets his lack of name recognition, a major party line or a big ground organization won't be too high a hurdle after primary day. The field will have thinned and his ad campaign will be underway.
"There's a lot of noise in the system right now, a lot of candidates," Hidary, 45, said in an interview. "We'll flush out the sideshow and the circus by Sept. 10 and a little more after that, so I think that's the time we're going to get our message even further."
That message revolves around Hidary's background in Silicon Alley and public service. Raised in southern Brooklyn's Syrian-Jewish community and now living on Manhattan's Central Park South, he has founded or acquired Internet ventures that went public, including the job-search site Dice.com, and has worked with such nonprofits as Trickle Up, which provides microfinancing for budding entrepreneurs.
"I'm a doer, I'm an implementer, I'm a bridge-builder," he said.
Hidary, like Bloomberg in 2001, bills himself as an alternative to career politicians. He envisions his mayoralty as a sequel to Bloomberg.
"What I want to do is build on Mike Bloomberg's success, but take it on a new direction, make it my own," Hidary said.
His chances are slim, experts say, considering he's up against better-known contenders and, unlike Bloomberg, is limiting himself to the same $6.4 million spending cap they face.
"It's a tough hill to climb, because he's starting literally at zero in terms of public recognition," said Bill Cunningham, Bloomberg's former communications director. "He's never run before, and he's not known in politics."
Bloomberg spent $74 million for a 2001 victory as a Republican. Hidary is running on a ballot line he created, the Jobs and Education Party, and his ad blitz will be far less extensive.
But Hidary has a team of professional advisers. They include Joe Trippi, who first gained notice overseeing Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid; Richard Strauss, former Clinton White House radio director; and Gregory Joseph, a political consultant with a parallel career in stand-up comedy. They say they will spend smarter than their rivals.
Reaching out to voters"We're going to be the word-of-mouth campaign," Hidary said. Trippi said in an interview that TV ads will be supplemented with databased targeting of likely voters through Hulu, which streams movies and TV shows, and Google.
On an August Sunday, Hidary marched in the Dominican Day Parade and ran from curb to curb, chatting with revelers in the Spanish he learned from his Colombian mother.
Afterward, he sought out potential supporters outside a temple of tech, the Fifth Avenue Apple store. Hidary made a lengthy pitch to Frederick Quinn, 23, of the Upper East Side, a recent college graduate.
"I like his green taxi initiative," Quinn said. In 2005, Hidary created an advocacy group to successfully lobby to allow hybrid taxicabs.
The fast-talking Hidary rattled off his accomplishments and ideas -- and asked questions, too. Quinn said he was surprised that Hidary wanted his advice on "how to attract younger voters."
Campaign volunteer Jesus Salce, 55, of Woodside, Queens, said he doubted Hidary could actually win in November, "but for the future, it's good for him to be out there."
Hidary said his time is now. "We're in it to win it, so I'll just focus right now on this race."
That single-mindedness came through when Hidary, a bachelor, was asked if he is in a relationship. "Right now, my relationship is with this campaign and the people of New York," he replied.
On the issuesSocially liberal and fiscally conservative, he is registered with the Independence Party and was a field volunteer for Barack Obama in 2008.
Hidary often reaches into his business and tech background for problem-solving ideas. At a mayoral forum on cultural sensitivity, he touted equal entrepreneurship opportunity as a way to curb tensions among the city's diverse communities.
He wants a computer science-heavy curriculum in public schools. "We need to move our school system from one of rote memorization and testing to one focused on blended learning, team-based work and problem-solving -- the kinds of skills CEOs today are looking for," Hidary said.
He opposes some Democrats' calls to raise taxes on the rich, saying that would reduce revenue and drive people from the city. "I would propose a tax cut for anyone of any means who invests in a small or growing business. . . . That's what creates jobs," he said.
On some issues facing the next mayor, Hidary's views are not fully formed.
He said he would have to consult legal counsel before deciding whether to follow through on Bloomberg's appeal of a federal court ruling that the police department's current stop-and-frisk practices must be overhauled to end unconstitutional racial profiling.
But he said he would like to keep stop-and-frisk, and Ray Kelly as commissioner, while adding technology such as ShotSpotter, a surveillance and gunfire alert system.
High-tech evangelistRepublicans Joe Lhota, the former MTA chairman, and John Catsimatidis, a billionaire businessman, have also embraced much of the Bloomberg legacy. But Hidary's camp says his background sets him apart.
"The key distinguishing fact between our opponents on the Republican side, though they do share similarities in the business world, is that they don't have the nonprofit experience that Jack does," Joseph said.
Hidary also stands out as a longtime evangelist of high-tech. At Columbia University, where he studied philosophy and neuroscience, Hidary partnered with a dean to create ColumbiaNet, a campuswide intranet, years before the Internet became a mass medium. He papered the campus with fliers that read, "Get email. It works."
Hidary dropped out in 1991 -- "I did get from Columbia what I came for, which is a great education" -- for a National Institutes of Health fellowship to study how the brain works. Then, with his brother Murray and a friend, Nova Spivack, he founded EarthWeb, an Internet consulting company, acquired Dice.com and melded the two into a job-search giant for tech professionals.
Hidary is financing his bid partly with his own fortune, whose size he would not disclose. He has collected enough donations to qualify for the city's matching funds program, his team said. His most recent Finance Board filings showed $432,118 in contributions, with donors ranging from homemakers and students to financiers. Hidary's large extended family also chipped in.
"I don't think there's any illusions about how tough it is to pull off," Trippi said. But he added: "What makes it possible to do it with $6.5 million is how weak the Democratic field is. There really is an undercurrent of, 'Please, tell me there's someone else.' "