A wealthy tech entrepreneur with a passion for education and a background that resembles Mayor Bloomberg’s is positioning himself to enter New York City’s mayor’s race.
Jack Hidary filed papers this week with the city’s Campaign Finance Board signaling an intention to receive city matching funds in a political campaign. He has also formed a political action committee, Hidary for NYC Inc, and someone registered the URL HidaryforNYC.com just days ago.
Hidary intends to run for mayor as an independent, according to three sources with knowledge of the bid. His entry would shake up a political race in which Bloomberg’s staunchest supporters have found few inspiring candidates.
Stu Loeser, who resigned as Bloomberg’s press secretary last year and now works as an independent consultant, has advised Hidary about his bid, according to a source.
Loeser distanced himself from Hidary today. “I’ve offered my ideas to several candidates running for mayor and several have taken me up on them,” he said. “Jack is a great person, but I am not working for him.”
Still, Hidary’s passions for business development, education reform, and the technology sector would make him an attractive candidate for people who believe Bloomberg has been a strong leader for New York City.
“Jack represents new ideas and new technology — these are the frontiers of the economy and what NYC needs to excel in to create jobs, improve education, and manage the city in a complex world,” said Nova Spivack, a former business partner who has known Hidary for nearly two decades. “Jack also cares deeply about education, the environment and job growth. I think he has the right combination of innovation and concern for the little guy that NYC needs. Where other candidates represent big money, Jack is an independent who believes in the best ideas, regardless of whose ideas they are.”
Hidary, who comes from Brooklyn’s wealthy Sephardic Jewish community, has a biography that bears several similarities to Bloomberg’s. A serial entrepreneur, his first major venture was the technology company EarthWeb/Dice, which offers job postings for the information technology industry.
He currently heads a sustainable energy technology company, Samba Energy. He has made hybrid taxis a pet issue, founding a nonprofit called Smart Transportation to lobby the City Council to allow them.
He is also a philanthropist. According to the website of his foundation, called the Jack D. Hidary Foundation, begun in 2001, his philanthropy aims “to catalyze scalable, self-sustaining programs in clean energy and economic development.”
And like the mayor, he has ideas about how education should be delivered. One of his foundation’s investments is in the National Lab Network, a project that aims to connect scientists and teachers.
“The interactions I’ve had around education ideas with him have been very thoughtful,” said Mark Federman, principal of East Side Community High School, where Hidary kicked off the network in 2010 with then-Chancellor Joel Klein. “He was reflective and interested in what’s happening and listening to what schools are doing. I thought he was very respectful in wanting to hear from educators and trying to find out what’s working and what’s not and why.”
Hidary’s internet profile is rudimentary at this point, including a lightly designed and irregularly updated blog and a website for his foundation. One entry on his Typepad blog dated July 10, 2012, is titled “Disrupting the Education System.”
“Hi Typepad,” it begins. “How are you? I hope your summer is off to a good start.” Then the post links to an article he published on the Huffington Post about new online platforms that could change education. The entries all focus on education technology companies, including Khan Academy and Coursera.